The glass looks just half full
The twin assembly poll results, in the states of Jammu & Kashmir and Jharkhand, indicate two strains of the electoral push that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has been working at over the past few months. In J&K, a fractured mandate, resulting from a four-cornered fight amongst BJP, People’s Democratic Party (PDP), National Conference (NC) and the Congress, has led to frantic calculations for possible post-poll alliances. With PDP gaining 29 out of 87 seats, it is obvious that the chief ministerial front runner is Mufti Mohammed Sayeed, whose party, under the able guidance of his daughter Mehbooba Mufti, has been voicing concerns of the people in the Valley, recently flood-ravaged, as well as the separatists battling tooth and nail for Azad Kashmir. But BJP’s considerable gain in Jammu region (the saffron party has won 25 assembly seats) indicates that the strategy of religious polarisation and raking up the controversial issue of Article 370 have yielded rich dividends among the Kashmiri Pandits, for whom the promise of homecoming is alluring enough to flock en masse behind BJP. With the Omar Abdullah-led National Conference gaining only 15 seats, a slide of 13 from the 2008 polls, it is evident that anti-incumbency acted as a major factor behind the current vote distribution, especially the former chief minister’s utter incompetence to deal with the catastrophic floods in September this year. Moreover, even though the BJP attempted to redefine Kashmiriyat as a matter of sticking to an undivided India, it is more than obvious that the Valley has outright rejected such a grossly inadequate reinterpretation that does not look at the excesses by the Army under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) or wants to dilute Article 370 that grants constitutionally mandated special status to the state. This, despite former separatist turned People’s Conference politician Sajjad Lone’s significant victory from his ancestral constituency Handwara and his siding with Narendra Modi during the Prime Minister’s visits to the flood-battered Valley during the election campaign. Evidently, political volatility will not leave the northern state even after a relatively steady alliance is forged between PDP and other lead players.
In Jharkhand, however, the story is different. With 42 out of 81 seats in BJP’s kitty, the saffron party does have a wafer-thin simple majority as far as the assembly is concerned. However, it has less than one-third of the vote share, which would mean that it needs propping up in some form or the other. However, the rise in vote share indicates that BJP’s decision to go solo has paid off in the state, though only marginally. It seems now that in the remote heartland of Jharkhand, Modi effect has waned to some extent, since BJP has been unable to replicate its Lok Sabha election performance when it won 12 out of 14 seats. Shaky or not, it’s still BJP’s call now.