Old Pattern In New Setup Hinting At Political Ice Break In Kashmir?

New Party Launch in Kashmir.

‘In 2014, BJP won 25 Assembly seats from Jammu region. But now the party will win over 50 seats to form the next government with its own chief minister in J&K.’

NEW political parties are emerging as more and more hints are being dropped about the possible polls in Jammu and Kashmir.

Post-abrogation of Article 370, ten political parties from JK have been registered by the Election Commission of India (ECI).

Among these outfits is National Awami United Party, National Democratic Party, Aman Aur Shanti Tehreek-e-Jammu & Kashmir, Voice of Labour Party, Haq Insaaf Party, Jammu and Kashmir Peoples Movement, among others.

This year, among the new outfits was Sheikh Muzaffar’s Jammu & Kashmir Nationalist Peoples Front and Bashir Ganie’s Gareeb Democratic Party.

Notably, Kashmir’s political landscape witnesses rise of new political actors and outfits at the time of elections.

Last month, separatist leader and chairman of the Jammu and Kashmir Peoples Independent Movement Bilal Gani Lone also hinted that he may soon join mainstream politics. Bilal is the son of late Hurriyat leader, Abdul Gani Lone.

Earlier, former JK Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad launched a new political party, named Democratic Azad Party (DAP). Azad’s resignation from primary membership of the Congress on August 26 this year was seen as a move to break the political ice in Kashmir.

 

With Congress deserters, GN Azad floated his own outfit in JK this year.

At the same time, New Delhi-based Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) announced that it would contest the next assembly election in J&K with “full force”.

“There’s nothing unusual about these new parties,” said Ifra Jan, spokesperson National Conference. “These outfits have been created to weaken the regional political parties. The idea is that no political party should control the valley altogether, because then it will become a very powerful force and that party would have a strong bargaining power.”

In fact, said Vikar Rasool, the ruling dispensation used the same policy in other states to form government.

“BJP wants to divide votes and buy seats to form government in JK,” Vikar, President of Jammu and Kashmir Pradesh Congress Committee (JKPCC), said.

With the loss of Statehood, said Naeem Akhtar, new party phenomenon has lost its edge.

“When the fountainhead of power is disabled, these outfits hardly matter,” Akhtar, a senior Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) leader, said.

The Gupkar Alliance has been campaigning for the restoration of JK’s pre-August 2019 status.

But since the August 2019 move has made the regional parties irrelevant, argues Professor Noor Mohammad Baba, many people might’ve seen an opportunity to fill the vacuum.

It may be noted that the J&K is under Governor’s rule since 2018 and saw the last Assembly elections in 2014.

“Even though in a democratic set-up, political parties get evolved but in the context of Kashmir, you never know who is supported by whom,” Baba, a noted political analyst, said.

“There’re hints that some of these parties have blessing from outside but we will have to wait and watch and see how this all shapes-up. That is only possible if free and fair elections are held, which would establish who ultimately survives in this race.”

However, denying the allegations of new parties being proxies of the ruling party, J&K BJP general secretary, Ashok Koul said that anyone is free to form a political party.

“And why would the BJP form or support any political party,” Koul said. “We don’t need anyone’s support. We will fight elections on our own and on each seat.”

Pertinently, in May 2022, the Delimitation Commission formed by the Central Government recommended seven additional constituencies — six for Jammu and one for Kashmir — taking the total number of seats in JK to 90 from 83.

Jammu’s seat share has now swelled to 43 from 37, while Kashmir’s count reached 47 from 46.

In 2014, BJP won 25 Assembly seats from Jammu region. “But now,” Koul said, “the party will win over 50 seats to form the next government with its own chief minister in J&K.”

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Auqib Javeed

Auqib Javeed is special correspondent with Kashmir Observer and tweets @AuqibJaveed

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