In an electoral democracy like India, realignment of political forces before the elections is a constant phenomenon. Political leaders and parties change loyalties according to the changing political scenario. In Jammu and Kashmir, the political forces are readying for the elections which are expected any time next year. National conference suffered a big jolt recently when its two heavyweights of Jammu region, Devender Rana and Surjit Singh Slathia deserted the party to join BJP. It was amazing to see Rana deserting National Conference. He was the most trusted party leader for both Abdullah Senior and Junior alike. Rana’s changing loyalty was the biggest shift among all those who crossed over to other political forces during the last one year.
In Kashmir, Sajad Lone’s People’s Conference is the biggest beneficiary of the political switches this year. Sajad dealt a severe blow to National Conference in Kashmir when NC stalwart and former finance minister Abdul Rahim Rather’s son Hilal Rather joined People’s Conference. Whatever the reasons, Hilal’s joining PC has impacted NC hugely. These political moves are par for the course. What is disturbing is the political maneuvering of certain forces along religious lines. PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti extensively toured the Muslim-dominated districts of Rajouri, Poonch, Doda and Kishtwar recently. Mehbooba’s electoral prospects are extremely bleak. But the narrative of Muslim victimhood that she is stoking can be highly dangerous. Mehbooba is doing exactly what National Panthers Party (NPP) has been doing in Udhampur, Jammu and Kathua. She is raising regional and religious passions, which shall prove to be advantageous for BJP.
NPP has been drawing a blank even after driving the narrative of regional and religious discrimination. It has not helped them in the past to win a single seat. Mehbooba’s victimhood card shall help BJP to consolidate in the Jammu region. In Kashmir region, Mehbooba is a clear loser. It is difficult for her to even find candidates, leave aside winning any seat. National Conference has got a dedicated base of workers, but it has no appeal among the younger generation. That said, we don’t see NC’s rout. The Kashmir voter is a complex entity. He may not be in love with New Delhi, but he definitely votes for the one who is loved by New Delhi. This can provide the basis to analyze the electoral prospects of political players like People’s Conference, Apni Party, National Conference, and others.