What if elections are held now?

The state of Jammu and Kashmir from a mainstream perspective is in an “uncertainty mode” after the death of PDP patron and leader, Mufti Muhammad Sayyed. The state is under governor’s rule till either Mehbooba Mufti-the leader of the PDP or even chief minister in waiting either takes oath as chief minister or seeks a fresh mandate. Team KO did an exercise in psephology and conducted a survey in lieu of this. The aim of the survey was to arrive at a figure for major political parties of the state in terms of seat share if elections are conducted now or in the very near future.   This exercise was conducted only in the Kashmir division of the state. The results do not look too well for the ruling party-the PDP. It is set to decline in terms of seat share in Kashmir Division unless a “wild card” is thrown in. This wild card would be Mehbooba Mufti seeking fresh elections in the future and breaking the alliance with the BJP.

The major reason for the PDP’s decline in seat share is its alliance with the BJP in Kashmir division and an attendant governance deficit. Despite this anti –incumbency factor, there are some idiosyncratic features peculiar to each constituency that are independent of general anti-incumbency and other related phenomena. The methodology that we have employed besides speaking to a cross section of people is to derive a figure for each seat after discounting a hypothetical “anti incumbency figure”, the margin of votes that candidates won or lost in their constituencies, and overall mood and tempo in Kashmir. The figures that we have arrived at are then indicative: they cannot and should be seen as definitive. Moreover another wild card in terms of elections is the nature of campaigning and the issue at hand, so to speak, which is most likely, unless there is a dramatic change in circumstances, the arrival of the BJP in Kashmir as a political player. Another assumption that we make is that voter turnout remains as it was in 2014.

Our results indicate a decline in the seat-share of the PDP in Kashmir division and a corresponding increase for the NC with independents and other smaller players managing to hold their ring , so to speak. While there is no apparent NC wave in Kashmir but there is the aspect of negative vote that is panning in favor of the NC- disgruntlement with the PDP is being positively transferred on the the NC.

The total seat share tally that obtains in Kashmir valley as of now is:

PDP: 25

National Conference: 12

Congress: 4

PC: 2

IND: 3

However, if elections are held in the immediate future, the tally and figures get inverted. Here are the figures:

PDP: 14-16

National Conference: 19-20

Congress: 4

PC: 2

IND: 3

 The margin and the variations thereof that we have given are a necessity given the close margins in the previous elections and the existence of wild cards and swing factors. To repeat, the seat share that we have arrived at is not set in stone; it is indicative and to some extent hypothetical.

Electoral Analysis and Mathematics in Kashmir and the options for parties thereof

KO analysis for today takes team KO’s assessment and psephological study of politico-electoral condition that obtains in the state of Jammu and Kashmir as the starting point and unit of analysis. In the interests of clarity, we would like to posit that the scenario and the seat share accruing from it is premised on the “now”. That is, this scenario obtains if elections will be held in JK now, and the results our analysis has yielded pertain only to the Kashmir division of the state.

The glaring “fact” that obtains from the analysis suggests that if elections are held now, and our results hold, government in JK will again be a coalitional one. Given that numbers favour the National Conference in Kashmir, the party, if it chooses to form the government, will have to seek a coalition partner. And given NC’s public stance against allying with the BJP, this, by elimination, leaves Congress, as its partner. However, this can be viable if Congress either retains its seat share in the state or gains. So, in terms of government formation and its nature, the state will be back to square on , in terms of coalition politics. What may stand out from this coalition formation is that if the NC and the Congress choose, they can stem the advance of the BJP –both in Kashmir and the state of Jammu and Kashmir at large.

This is one scenario. The other is if Mehbooba Mufti decides to pull out and seek a fresh mandate now. (The assumption here is , given that our analysis is more in the nature of a scenario, is the elections are held soon after this decision not after six months, as is the wont and the law). In this scenario, the PDP stands to lose in terms of seat share; the obvious corollary is that it won’t be able to form the Government. In the immediate time frame, the PDP then stands to lose however, the party stands to or can potentially make a comeback from the margins. It can morph into a real and genuine regional party under a new avatar in terms of  leadership under Mehbooba and a changed context in and to Kashmir. The element of risk in this permutation can be cannibalized in the future.  The PDP can claim to  have pushed back the BJP from the state and pledge to the people for a fresh start.

The other scenario is the PDP ekes out concessions from the BJP government at the Centre and uses these as governance prop. This allows the PDP to maintain the status quo and hope for a better outcome down the lane. However, what would be key here is a stellar governance performance and a financial largesse that could be cannibalized for political ends. But, governance in Kashmir is neither linear nor as straightforward as people would like to think. Moreover, if Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad’s tenure and stink in government is held as a benchmark , then Kashmiris do not attach much import to governance or more accurately in the context  of Kashmir, patrimonialist-clientist governance.

This leaves us with the least plausible scenario, in a different permutation and combination, the PDP joins hands with the NC and both become a regional force to contend with.  While this may be the best and most prudent alternative for the state, it may not come to pass given the structural animus between the two and other factors, like the consolidation of the Kashmiri vote which may be frowned upon by certain quarters.

The state of Jammu and Kashmir-especially the Kashmir division of the state- is at a critical , uncertainty laden future. The nature of this juncture warrants sober introspection and assessment that is future oriented. Temptations and compulsions may lend themselves to an easy choice but with the future of the state at stake, short term gains or temptations should be shunted an a politico-strategic calculus taken recourse that is both prudent and sustainable. What this is is obvious but what is not obvious is the will and determination and sagacity that would inform this approach.

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