Former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah ruffled many a feather by saying that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s landslide in Uttar Pradesh had shattered the opposition hopes of unseating him soon. Abdullah was in fact making a rational analysis that suited his own National Conference. He tweeted that with the political balance tilting in favour of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the opposition should forget the Lok Sabha election of 2019 and aim at the 2024 general election to take power in New Delhi. His views have ruffled the Congress, Abdullah’s former ally.
But the predicament of a regional leader who cast his lot with the Congress when his party formed a coalition in Jammu and Kashmir after the 2008 assembly election has simply been overlooked by the Congress.
Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti felicitated the BJP for its landslide win in Uttar Pradesh by saying it was an endorsement of Prime Minister Modi’s agenda of development and progress.
She was, however, quick to assert her party’s regional niche by asking Modi to start the peace process so that a permanent solution to the problems faced by the people in the state was found.
Mufti also said the people’s endorsement of Modi’s developmental agenda had proved right the decision of her father, the late Mufti Muhammad Sayeed, to ally with an ideologically divergent party like the BJP.
Coalition compulsions for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have come to fore many times during the last two years it has ruled the state with the BJP.
On issues like the establishment of separate colonies for migrant Pandits, Sainik Colonies, West Pakistan refugees and even rationalisation of state administrative cadres like the KAS and KPS, the BJP and the PDP have found themselves on two sides of the river.
As the BJP gets stronger, the PDP will have to put together its regional act fast since most of its political ground in the Muslim-majority Valley has been eroded due to the unrest of 2016.
A silver lining to the dark cloud for the PDP is that its falling scores with Kashmiris have not benefitted the National Conference so far.
But in Jammu and Kashmir elections as elsewhere in the country, voters rarely vote parties to power as strongly as they do to throw them out of it.
The impact of the BJP victory will definitely help its rank and file in the Hindu-majority Jammu region.
The anger in the Jammu region against the BJP will at worst now zero on its ministers, not the party high command. For the PDP, the same is not true in the Valley.
The biggest challenge the PDP now faces is to regain its lost ground by retaining the two Lok Sabha seats of Anantnag and Srinagar which go to the polls on April 9 and 12 respectively.
The seats fell vacant after Mufti vacated the Anantnag seat by taking over as Chief Minister and Tariq Hameed Karra resigned the Srinagar seat after parting ways with the PDP.
If the PDP wins both seats, it would have walked away with a political jackpot. But if it loses both or one of the two seats, it will stand humbled before its BJP ally.