DDC Election Results Reveal Limits of BJP’s Strategy in J&K

The recently concluded District Development Council polls were the first major elections in Jammu and Kashmir after the revocation of Article 370 as well as the crackdown, lockdown, incarceration of leaders and violence that followed.

The Bharatiya Janata Party has claimed victory in the DDC elections, citing that it is the single largest party in terms of seats and votes as well. While statistically, the BJP is right but politically, it’s not so simple.

There are three aspects to the elections: The BJP’s performance, the success of the seven-party People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration and what the results may mean for Jammu and Kashmir First, the numbers.

The PAGD, which comprises seven parties like Jammu and Kashmir National Conference, Jammu and Kashmir People’s Democratic Party, Jammu and Kashmir People’s Conference, and CPI(M) won 109 out of 280 seats, while the BJP won 74.

The PAGD is all set to take control of nine out of the 10 district councils in the Kashmir region while the BJP is likely to get control of six out of 10 councils in the Jammu region. Four district councils in Jammu and one in Kashmir will be dependent on Independents and smaller parties.

Not Quite a Win for BJP

The BJP’s claim of victory is based on its status as the single-largest party and the fact that it polled 4.8 lakh votes compared to 3.9 lakh of the PAGD.

However, both claims need to be put in context. The BJP became the single-largest party mainly because it contested almost all the 280 seats while the second-largest party, the JKNC which won 67 seats contested 168.

The BJP getting a larger number of votes is mainly due to the fact that the turnout in Jammu region, where it is strong, was above 70 percent, while in Kashmir it was half of that. So, it is natural that Jammu-based parties poll more votes overall than Kashmir-based ones. This happened even in the 2014 Assembly polls in which the BJP polled the maximum number of votes yet was behind the PDP in terms of seats.

In 2014, it won 25 out of 37 seats in Jammu, that is over two thirds. But in the DDC polls, it won 71 out of 140 seats which is just above 50 percent.

In particular, the BJP seems to have lost some ground in districts like Doda, Ramban and Rajauri. In the Assembly polls, the BJP had won both the seats in Doda but in the DDC polls, it won 8 out of 14 seats. In Ramban it had won 1 out of 2 in 2014 but in the DDC polls it had to settle for 3 out of 14. Then in Rajauri, the BJP had won 2 out of 5 seats in the Assembly polls but now has been reduced to 2 out of 13.

However, the BJP swept Hindu majority districts like Jammu, Udhampur, Samba and Kathua, winning 48 out of 56 seats in these four districts.

The BJP can draw solace from the fact that the its main competitor in these areas, the Congress, was wiped out in these four districts and the only resistance came from the NC and Panthers Party, who won two seats each.

The BJP won three seats in the Kashmir region: Tulail in Bandipora district, Khonmoh II in Srinagar and Kakapora II in Pulwama.

But the party couldn’t make any more inroads despite controlling power both at the Centre and in Jammu and Kashmir.

The election exposed what has been a weakness for the BJP nationally – that its electoral success goes haywire in areas where Hindus are not an overwhelming majority.

Win for PAGD But With Riders

The BJP may not have anticipated that the Jammu and Kashmir National Conference and Jammu and Kashmir People’s Democratic Party would form an alliance but the leaders of the two parties – Farooq Abdullah and Omar Abdullah of the NC and Mehbooba Mufti of the PDP – were mature enough to set aside their rivalry and take on the BJP.

Advantage NC

To a great extent, the PAGD’s win has been possible due to the resilience of the JKNC at the grassroots level. It won 67 seats and is in a position to control the Badgam and Ganderbal councils on its own. More important is the fact that the NC even emerged as the main opposition party in Jammu as well, winning 25 seats in the region. It did particularly well in Kishtwar and Ramban, winning 6 seats each and 5 in Rajauri. It had been wiped out in these three districts in the 2014 Assembly elections.

The BJP’s poor performance in these districts is partly due to a surprisingly strong showing by the NC.

Source – https://www.thequint.com/news/politics/ddc-election-results-2020-gupkar-pagd-bjp-pdp-nc-jammu-kashmir#read-more

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