Kashmir has looked at the outcome of the five state elections with a blend of disbelief and the relief. Fewer people in the state expected the BJP to score 5-0 in the polls. The Prime Minister Narendra Modi seemed too overarching a leader to lose so tamely in five states. His power to hold people perpetually in thrall has become by now legendary. He has firmly rooted himself in a divisive ideology, offering an emotionally charged politics along with a promise of economic development. This has been the zeitgeist that Modi has tapped into and so long as it lasted he seemed destined to rule. As things stand, the charisma no longer seems to work. And while this is a positive development for the Congress and the opposition parties, a majority of people in the Valley are also be inclined to view the turn of events favourably.
The BJP’s rise in India had become a source of consternation in Kashmir. The party’s absolute majority in parliament and the government in around two-thirds of the states had put it in a commanding position to implement its Hindutva agenda in the country. And in case of Kashmir the partys core agenda, albeit it works over the past four and a half years, is yet to reach its logical conclusion. And Kashmir thus has a reason to be anxious. There are already six challenges to the Article 370 and Article 35A which governs the Valleys state subject laws four in Supreme Court and two in Delhi High Court. For Sangh groups, it is Article 35A and not Article 370 which comes in the way of settling Indians from other parts of the country in J&K. They believe that the only way to resolve Kashmir issue is through a sweeping demographic change in the state.
Over the past four years, the party has tried to do everything in its hands to alter the ground realities in the state. It has hardly hidden its design to bring in sweeping constitutional changes to assimilate Kashmir into India. As the recent move to turn J&K into a Public Sector Undertaking would have us believe, the party isn’t ready to spare even the institutions. And the prospect of the BJP returning to power at the centre with an even larger majority thus looks scary to the majority of the people in the state. But the loss in the five states, more so, in the all-important states of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chattisgarh has stacked the odds against the BJP in the upcoming general elections. Even if the party returns to power at the centre, it may not have the absolute majority that it commands now. And considering how the party has dealt with Kashmir so far, that will be a good news. For the BJP to acquire a degree of acceptability in Kashmir, it will need to undergo a fundamental shift in its ideological stance on the state, something that appears unlikely to happen in the near future.
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