Jammu Is Important

Kashmir based political parties will have to focus more on Jammu after the region gets a decisive edge in electoral politics after the delimitation exercise completes, writes Zahoor Malik

Prof Bhim Singh National Panthers Party supremo accompanied by party colleague Anita Thakur interacting with the members of the PAfGD in Jammu on Saturday, November 7.2020

Realising the increasing importance of Jammu in electoral politics, the major Kashmir based parties cannot ignore that region. The parties are expected to increase their political activities in the coming months in view of the next assembly election.

 The ongoing delimitation commission exercise is likely to significantly add to the political weight of Jammu. In order to offset the impact of a “loaded dice”, these parties will have to redouble their efforts in Jammu to stay relevant to Jammu and Kashmir.

Clueless

Right now the Kashmir political parties are clueless about how exactly the new constituencies will be created and how the present constituencies will be reshaped. There are some reports in media based on leaks – whether authentic or otherwise, but a true picture will emerge once the draft final report is shared by the commission with the associate members. In anticipation of it, the Kashmir based political parties say that the report will not be favourable to Kashmir. They have been opposing such an exercise on the ground that why it is being done in Jammu and Kashmir only and not in the rest of India. And why a Commission that was mandated to do the delimitation of assembly seats in Assam had that responsibility withdrawn, unlike Jammu and Kashmir.

Having enjoyed the central patronage from time to time in past, these political parties are caught in a deep-sea and devil situation. On one hand, they are missing the Delhi patronage and on the other hand, they find their support base getting targeted with Delhi’s never-ending new moves.

In spite of these difficulties, the major mainstream parties cannot remain disconnected from the Jammu masses. National Conference leadership has visited Jammu a number of times after the abrogation of article 370 and recently PDP President Mehbooba Mufti was also there.

PDP and NC

Mehbooba reminded the Jammuites that BJP has not brought doudh ki nidiyan in Jammu as was being claimed by the national party after the special status was read down. She alleged that people of Jammu have been suffering on different fronts and even some basic facilities like power supply are not available to them during hot summer.

NC is also trying to target BJP on the same issues. But, interestingly NC leadership of Jammu has started toeing a new line – a demand for an end to the decades-long alleged discrimination against Jammu. This line is gradually emerging as the core of politics amongst Jammu parties.  

This line, however, is contrary to that of NC politics in Kashmir. It seems the party leadership here is allowing their party colleagues in Jammu to follow the new strategy to get more political mileage there and snatch away some share from BJP and other parties through this pro-Jammu sentiment.

At Weak Wicket

Right now the BJP may seem on a weak wicket as far as development and basic amenities to people in Jammu are concerned. Political observers say that after some months when more assembly seats are added to Jammu and the region gets a decisive edge over the formation of the new government, the scene will be totally different.

The NC delegation led by Devinder Singh Rana handing over memorandum to Delimitation Commission Chairperson in Jammu on July 8, 2021

That scenario will be completely in favour of the BJP, which will be again in a strong position to sweep polls in Jammu as it did in the last assembly polls. At that time the issue of basic amenities will not be of that importance. And these issues of daily life, it will be promised, would be taken care of in a better way when BJP forms the next government on its own or with the support of smaller elected groups in Kashmir, the observers added.

Reading down the special status of Jammu and Kashmir had already given an edge to BJP in Jammu. However, bifurcating the state into two union territories was disliked by many. That is why there is a strong demand for the restoration of statehood. Even some parties are demanding a separate state for Jammu.

The Trust Deficit

Despite the all parties meet that Prime Minister Narendra Modi presided over, the trust deficit between the central government and Kashmir political parties continues. The parties in Kashmir see every move of the union government with suspicion. They are not sure what is going to happen next. But they have no option but to operate in whatever political space is given to them and move on.

Having dominated the political scene significantly in past, these parties are now finding themselves helpless. They are unsure about the electoral political fortunes in Kashmir and at the same time, they are compelled due to changing political scene to equally focus on Jammu. However, they are aware that BJP will ensure not to leave anything for them in Jammu in the coming assembly polls. But they would desperately try to get anything from there to remain in the game.

Ravinder Raina (BJP)

In past when BJP was not powerful in Jammu, Congress and NC used to get lion’s share in assembly polls. They would get seats from almost all districts. Even Panthers Party would also bag some seats.

As BJP started getting stronger, Congress, NC and Panthers Party began to lose support base. Modi factor helped BJP in the last assembly polls and it completely decimated the other parties. The poor performance by BJP ministers during PDP-BJP rule badly dented the image of the party. However, reading down article 370 gave a new lease of life to BJP in Jammu. Now, the coming developments are going to make the party strongest.

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