By Masood Hussain
SRINAGAR: A day after BJP trounced in the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council Kargil, former Deputy Chief Minister Kavinder Gupta has stated that situation in Kashmir is not conducive for the local body polls. He is the first political leader of the right-wing party who has admitted the ground situation unlike most of his party.
“The BJP wants elections to be held, but first the safety of candidates and local people will have to be ensured,” Gupta told Indian Express after he met the new governor Satya Pal Malik. “I do not think elections are possible in many areas in the Valley. I don’t know what strategy the administration has made for those places. Militant killings are the biggest challenge, and if the electoral process is set in motion and then deferred, then it will be more difficult to prepare for elections again.”
Gupta has referred to the spate of killings and kidnappings of the cops in south Kashmir. “They have come back and I cannot say how and under what circumstances,” Gupta was quoted saying. “It shows the situation is alarming. Keeping in view all this, there is a need to change the strategy.”
The assertions came after the BJP’s expectations fell far beyond the scripted lines in Kargil. In the LAHDC, Kargil elections, it was National conference that emerged the largest party with 10 of the 26 berths, followed by Congress with eight seats. The Council requires only 16 seats to get the leadership. PDP got the two seats of Shargole and Chiktan. It won Shargole by a margin of 68 votes only.
BJP barely opened an account in the region’s council. It won Buddhist-dominated Cha seat by a thin margin of 30 votes. Located in the Zanskar belt, in Cha, BJP’s Stanzin Lakpa got 552 votes and defeated Congress’s Tenzin Sonam by a very thin margin.
It was a massive contest as parties managed some of the seats with very thin margins. NC won Chuliskambo seat by 10 votes only. At Poyen, NC defeated Congress by 16 votes only. Congress says it won six berths by a thing margin thus trouncing the party’s capacity to have its own Council.
Though Congress and NC contested against each other, they are going to revive their alliance and rule the council. Preparations for this have already begun.
Though the BJP circles are visibly happy that they have opened an account, the outcome of the polls is far below their expectations, political sources said. BJP spokesperson, Brig (retd) Anil Gupta was quoted saying that they were projected anti-Muslim by all.
Reports in media suggested that the party had made a huge investment in the region as the state party leaders had told the central leadership that the party will make it big in the Shia Muslim district. They, however, had not any seat from any Muslim area in Kargil.
A Jammu newspaper said the party was hoping to get at least 10 seats in the 30-member council that has four berths being nominated by the government. The newspaper said that BJP state president Ravinder Raina with Ashok Koul managed the entire campaign but did not keep the local workers of the party in the loop. It was on their recommendations that “the high-command had managed adequate resources and financial support for the elections”. The two leaders managed the region in such a way that on July 21, 23 BJP workers from Kargil submitted their resignations to Koul.
However, what nobody has mentioned is that the build-up to Article 35(A) played a key factor in ensuring the BJP does not get any foothold in the Muslim belt of Kargil. The district was on strike with Kashmir on August 31, when the Supreme Court was scheduled to hear the case. It eventually adjourned the case to January 19, 2019.
Sources close to BJP said that the party was insisting on local body polls because it had “worked hard” in certain areas of Kashmir. With Panchayat elections, the party is keen to make “some surprises”. In certain areas. Now one of the grand surprises has proved a damp squib, the party leaders have started invoking the ground situation in Kashmir, a situation that existed even earlier when it was ruling the state with the PDP.
Former governor N N Vohra was opposed to the idea of Panchayat polls but the MHA was keen to have the polls. In the immediate follow-up, the new governor Satya Pal Maik have put the exercise in fast forward mode.
State Administrative Council, which is literally the headed Governor’s cabinet, decided to hold municipal elections in the state in four phases between October 21, and October 5, 2018. These will be followed by Panchayat polls in eight phases between November 8 and December 4.