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Sunday, Oct 02, 2022

On Valley’s edge

BJP was pitching for votes in “Muslim” Kashmir as much as it was mobilising support in “Hindu” Jammu.

The BJP’s performance may have fallen well short of its “Mission 44”, but the goal it set itself this time in J&K was not just bolder, but also appeared more encompassing. The BJP’s performance may have fallen well short of its “Mission 44”, but the goal it set itself this time in J&K was not just bolder, but also appeared more encompassing.

The Jharkhand and Jammu and Kashmir results burnish a stellar year for the BJP. Its political opponents may point to the gap between the BJP’s hype and its final tally but on the day after, there are at least two irrefutable takeaways: One, the BJP has made remarkable gains that mark firsts in both states. In Jharkhand, a state of chronic instability and footloose political entrepreneurs, it is poised to form the first government with the promise of a stable majority. And in J&K, its debut as a significant player makes more complete the political-ideological spectrum in the state. Two, the “Modi wave” hasn’t abated. In both states, the BJP fought in his name, he was its star campaigner and much of its message. Under Narendra Modi, there is a remarkable scaling up of the BJP’s ambition, which may not always be matched by its actual electoral takings. But in each case, it is showing up its opponents’ lassitude and lower aim, their inability or unwillingness or both to significantly raise their own game.

The J&K outcome could mark a turning point. The BJP’s performance may have fallen well short of its “Mission 44”, but the goal it set itself this time in J&K was not just bolder, but also appeared more encompassing. It was pitching for votes in “Muslim” Kashmir as much as it was mobilising support in “Hindu” Jammu — Modi’s Diwali touchdown to meet the flood-affected was a gesture in that direction. As it turns out, it picked up seats in Jammu alone and made only small beginnings in Kashmir. Given that it has emerged as the second largest party after the PDP, this could well signal an ominous deepening of the regional-religious cleavage that demography and geography have colluded in crafting in the state. But this will be the political challenge in this election’s aftermath. The BJP will be watched for how it plays its role in J&K now, as part of government or in opposition.

Will it seize the historic opportunity to play a wider role in India’s only Muslim-majority and most politically sensitive state, by retrieving a Vajpayee-esque expansiveness and opening up its stated positions to the possibilities of give-and-take, including on Article 370? Towards that end, will it also recognise that its politics and policy in Kashmir cannot be divorced from its politics and policy elsewhere, and that the rising clamour of religious bigotry from within the Sangh Parivar could reverse any gains made in Kashmir? Much will depend — for the BJP and for Kashmir — on how Modi’s party answers those questions.

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First published on: 24-12-2014 at 12:00:48 am
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