Post-poll survey: Polarised nature of the political landscape of the State

The election results yet again highlight the polarised nature of the political landscape and the vast differences between the State’s regions

The election results in J&K yet again highlighted the polarised nature of the political landscape of the State. While the BJP retained its two seats in the Jammu division and one in Ladakh, the National Conference (NC) replaced the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in the three in Kashmir.Jammu & Kashmir Municipal Elections 2018

Jammu

Except for the large victory margins (three lakh plus) of the BJP in Jammu and Udhampur seats, the result did not surprise many. Union Minister Jitendra Singh’s margin of 3.57 lakh in the latter seat is one of the 10 highest victory margins in the country. He defeated Vikramaditya Singh, son of senior Congress leader Karan Singh.

It was the national parties — the BJP and the Congress — which were the main contenders in Jammu. Parties based in the Jammu region did not fare well. Former Minister Choudhary Lal Singh, who was expected to cut into the BJP votes, having quit the PDP-BJP government and the BJP after participating in a rally organised by the Hindu Ekta Manch on the Kathua case, lost his deposit in both Udhampur and Jammu, as did National Panthers Party candidates.

The survey found the Kathua case to have been a voting consideration for only about one-fifth of the voters. Moreover, importance attached to the issue was found to be far greater among Muslim voters than Hindu voters, 40% as opposed to 11%.

The NC and the PDP supported the Congress candidates in Jammu and Udhampur, hoping that consolidating the votes of the three parties would help defeat the BJP. That clearly did not happen. The reasons seem to be three-fold: their voters could not be mobilised enough to vote for the Congress, which traditionally had been the rival of Kashmir-based parties; almost negligible campaigning by the Congress; and the strong support the BJP had in Hindu-majority areas in Jammu.

The survey data suggest that the Jammu region this time has perhaps witnessed an unprecedented polarisation on religious lines — 87% Hindu respondents said that they had voted for the BJP, while 90% of the Muslims respondents said that they had voted in favour of the Congress.

The Modi factor too seems to have been clearly at work among the BJP voters. Six of every 10 respondents said that they wanted Narendra Modi to be the next Prime Minister. Two in every five said they would have voted for someone else and not the BJP had Mr. Modi not been the Prime Ministerial candidate. Moreover, 44% did not look at the party or the candidate while voting but instead considered the prime ministerial candidate.

Kashmir region

The National Conference (NC) made a resounding comeback in an election that saw one of the lowest turnouts. After its 2014 debacle, the NC bounced back winning all three seats in the Kashmir region.

National conference patron Farooq Abdullah retained the prestigious Srinagar seat by 70,050 votes.

Two regions, poles apart

Perhaps the biggest surprise came from Anantnag where a political novice, Hasnain Masoodi (former High Court judge), of the NC defeated State Congress chief Ghulam Ahmad Mir and former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti.

South Kashmir is considered a traditional bastion of the PDP. However, since PDP’s decision to align with the BJP in 2014 to form a government in the State, its political fortunes have been facing a serious backlash.

In the Baramulla constituency, NC candidate Mohamamd Akbar Lone comfortably defeated his closest rival, Raja Aijaz Ali, of the People’s Conference by a margin of 30,233 votes. Independent candidate Engineer Rashid, who has been gaining some popularity recently, received over one lakh votes. Mr. Rashid was supported by IAS officer-turned- politician Shah Faesal. The survey found a high level of dislike for traditional parties. Three in every five respondents said they highly dislike the PDP.

The National Conference was also found to be highly disliked by 40% of the voters.

The survey also showed that 90% of the voters preferred their Kashmiri identity to a national one, while 95% were found to be of the opinion that Article 370 and 35A should not be scrapped. The National Conference had made all these as poll issues.

The verdict in the Kashmir Valley show that people have not forgiven the PDP for its alliance with the BJP.

Ladakh seat

Though Lokniti did not conduct a post-poll survey in Ladakh, a mention of the result there is due. BJP candidate Jamyang Tsering Namgayal, Chairman and Chief Executive Councillor of the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council, won the Ladakh seat beating Sajjad Kargili, an Independent candidate backed by the Islamiyya School, the NC, and the PDP, by 10,930 votes.

]Originally Published in The Hindu ]

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