Big Brother Syndrome

With Congress and NC busy drafting strategies after a historic rout in the Lok Sabha polls, PDP and BJP are desperate to consolidate the gains. R S Gull offers a peephole view about how the two parties are desperately seeking allies, one before polls and another after that

Mufti-Sayeed-and-Omar-AbdullahIn electoral politics, opportunities are more important than ideology. So right now, J&K’s small parties in J&K and independents usually termed as ‘free floating electrons’ are in sharp focus as the bigger parties are seeking their support. With the month of fasting over, the preparations have started. All the four biggies NC, PDP, Congress and BJP are going to polls separately.

As Congress and NC have decided not to get into pre-poll alliance, PDP and BJP have started efforts to earn allies. The only difference is that while BJP is willing to enter into pre-poll alliances, PDP is seeking only post-poll allies. The reason: PDP thinks it has the potential of managing most of the requirements for the house on its own. In the 87-member J&K assembly, any party with 44 members can form the government.

BJP MP J P Nanda who is apparently taking care of BJPs elections in J&K had a detailed meeting with the Peoples Conference chairman Sajjad Ghnai Lone. Though it was not immediately known if the two parties have decided to come closer for electoral gains, the two sides definitely had the ‘free and frank’ discussions over ‘various issues’ that Kashmir is confronted with.

BJP went into an all time high after the dentist daughter of former NC and later Congress activist Mohammad Shafi Bhat joined the party. But it is highly unlikely that Lone will fall in the saffron lap. It was just aimed at making news. Apparently, nothing beyond that.

In Jammu, BJP has decided going against the local party suggestions and want to rope in Udhampur based Panthers Party well before the polls. BJP high command thinks that the party having two seats in the state assembly may not be huge gainer in 2014 polls. But it can be a great divider of votes in various neighbouring seats. To prevent the mess of the mandate, BJP is willing to leave specified number of seats to the party as part of the pre-poll arrangement. Local BJP wants the polls be fought separately.

There have been two meetings between the two parties. But Panthers Party is sitting silent over the BJP idea and has not reacted to it so far. The problem in the party is that if it allies with BJP that will eventually lack numbers to become part of the governing structure, where will Panthers Party leverage its strength? Panthers Party was part of Mufti led Congress-PDP coalition in 2002 and had a cabinet ministry with it.

Another major happening reported to be around the corner is that Congressman Lal Singh is about to join the saffron brigade. A two time MP and a minister in the state with his wife also getting elected once, Singh was denied mandate by the party for 2014 Lok Sabha polls, making room for Ghulam Nabi Azad’s candidacy. The main factor for denial of mandate to Singh was primarily Azad and secondarily a severe criticism by NC. Now Singh is willing to pay back Congress by joining BJP. The only hitch, right now is, how BJP will manage the incumbent lawmaker Jagdish Sapolia who had also resigned from Congress earlier!

BJP trying to rope in smaller parties, however, has started building a sort of pressure on PDP. Within a day after BJP had a meeting with Peoples’ Conference’s Sajjad Lone, PDP also sent an emissary. But the party says it was just a meeting between two family friends: Sajjad and Nizam-ud-Din Bhat, an earlier Peoples Conference worker.

“We have closed the door on any pre-poll alliance as we have announced the mandate almost everywhere,” PDP spokesman Naeem Akhter said. “But we are keen to have allies once the elections are over.” The party is more interested to have allies from Jammu rather than Kashmir. It has already rejected offer of a pre-poll alliance that Congress made early last month.

Problem with the PDP is that it wants to have some foothold in Jammu’s Hindu belt. Party insiders said mandate apart, it needs to gain legitimacy to govern which can be possible only if there are a few non-Muslims representing the area. Given a shake-hand impossible with BJP, for PDP, Panthers are the best bet. Panthers is a grand mix of whatever BJP and Congress can be, if ever put together.

Right now, in the 87 member J&K house, NC has 28, PDP 21, Congress 17, BJP 11 and Panthers Party has two seats as eight balance seats are with independents. But the Lok Sabha elections exhibited the crisis that the ruling coalition has undergone since 2009.

PDP that bagged three Kashmir Lok Sabha seats defeating NC from its home turf also won 41 seats across the state. NC and Congress were pushed to the phenomenally lowest numbers as NC could barely manage retaining six seats and Congress 10. Apart from a couple of independents in Kashmir and Jammu, it was BJP that exhibited a spectacular performance of more than doubling its seats.  While everybody accepts that the tally is surely going to change in the assembly elections, PDP and BJP are separately desperate to retain and consolidate the gains they once achieved. To gain allies is just part of their alternative plan to stay at the top.

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