IS NC looking for a chance for alliance with the BJP?
For the past few months, since Pulwama attack and Balakote strike, the political corridors of Kashmir valley have been abuzz with talks of the top brass of National Conference desperately looking for the “post poll” alliance with the resurgent BJP in the upcoming J&K assembly elections, which are expected to be held sometime in November this year.
Omar Abdullah, the vice president of National Conference, who has been out of power since 2014 is believed to be in favor of the political alliance with the BJP, which most political analysts expect would completely dominate the Jammu region and perhaps Ladakh too and without whom it may not be possible to form the government in J&K, both arithmetically as well as due to political compulsions. Therefore, the question that arises is that, will NC take the similar political risk that the PDP took in 2015 in allying with the BJP?
Decimation of Congress and simultaneous meteoritic rise of BJP in Jammu has completely disturbed the political apple cart of J&K, forcing political parties of the state to forge previously “unthinkable” political alliances. Contrary to what most people think, it was not the PDP but the NC, which for the first time, actually tied BJP to the J&K state politically, when Omar Abdullah in 1999 joined PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s BJP led NDA government as junior minister for commerce and industry but was soon promoted to external affairs ministry, where he served for little more than a year. This move formally allowed the
BJP to ally with the Kashmir based party for the first time since 1951, when J&K constituent assembly came into existence.
BJP on the other hand, has been growing steadily in the state of J&K since 1987, when it won 2 seats in the J&K assembly for the first time. The party however has been wining seats even prior to that, albeit in other avatars as Jammu & Kashmir Praja Parishad (JKPP) and Bharatiya Jan Sangh (BJS). AS JKPP, the BJP won 5 seats in the first assembly elections (1957) and 3 seats in the second assembly elections (1962), while as BJS, the BJP won 3 seats in the fourth assembly elections (1972).
Ever since, 1987, BJP’s graph has been rising both in terms of the number of seats won and vote share,n which today stands at 46% of the total votes polled in the just concluded Lok Sabha elections, where BJP won 3 Lok Sabha seats and was further leading in 28 assembly seats. It lost 3 more assembly seats by narrow margin, making BJP a strong contender for asnmany as 31 assembly seats.
In comparison, the NC got only 8% of the total votes polled and even though it was leading in 30 seats in Kashmir valley, the NC’s lead came largely due to paltry voting in Central and South Kashmir, which is bound to change in assembly elections, where Kashmiris tend to participate in larger numbers. The NC also faced an extremely tough competition from both Sajad Lone’s People’s Conference and Engineer Rashid’s Awami Ithehad Party in North Kashmir. One must not forget that Shah Feasal’s JKPM would also be making its debut in the pending assembly elections, thereby further adding competition in an already crowded political arena of Kashmir. The Congress party’s lead in Jammu’s 12 seats was also largely in part due to both NC and PDP not having fielded their candidates. Congress party in fact fared poorly in all 4 assembly seats of Ladakh, which it had won in 2014.
All this in effect means that chances of BJP emerging as the single largest party of J&K in pending assembly elections are much more than that of NC and chances of Congress, the “traditional” alliance partner of NC performing well are bleaker thereby leaving NC with a dilemma to find a “suitable” political partner than can adequately represent both Jammu region as well as 4 million Hindu community of Jammu, something that Congress can no longer deliver. Also, importantly, the state government in J&K, which runs on “grants” from the center would also prefer to be in the “good books” of whoever rules Delhi.
All these reasons seem to push NC towards entering into alliance with BJP.
Contrary to what most would think, the greatest stumbling block, on the part of the NC in any prospective NC – BJP alliance is not the fear that such an alliance might antagonize Kashmiri Muslim electorate against the NC but the hinderance is Mr. Farooq Abdullah’s political animosity with PM Modi and Amit Shah. Mr. Farooq Abdullah was an important part of Mamata Banerjee led “Mahagatha Bandhan” that carried out a near toxic and personal campaign against PM Modi.
It is believed that while Omar Abdullah, who has previously worked under BJP led NDA, is not personally averse to an alliance with Modi government, it is Mr. Farooq Abdullah and his stronger ties with Gandhi family and Congress party and his aversion towards Modi & Shah that is creating difference of opinion between father and son. It is believed that Mr. Farooq
Abdullah has no interest in becoming CM of J&K and is in fact more interested in national politics while Mr. Omar Abdullah, who has been out of power for last 5 years is extremely keen to again sit on CM’s chair and is therefore reportedly even ready to be a “ half term CM” of J&K, allowing the BJP to appoint its own CM for the rest of the tenure.
Mr. Omar Abdullah clearly seems to believe that unlike PDP, the core voter of NC does not care who
the NC enters into alliance with and would therefore not “punish” it for the choices that the top brass of NC would make, but more important question remains is whether BJP, which is right now in commanding position in J&K, would lend its ears to NC’s “offer” ? We shall find it soon.
The writer is a Political Activist and aspiring Politician. He has worked as PRO to Ex CM of J&K and writes on various issues. ( firstname.lastname@example.org)