Tribune News Service
Jammu, December 23
For the third time in a row, voters in Jammu and Kashmir have thrown up a hung Assembly with no party in sight of the magic figure of 44 in the 87-member House.
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) emerged as the single largest party bagging 28 seats today. Party patron Mufti Mohammad Sayeed won from Anantnag and took the party to the highest-ever tally in the Assembly polls ever since its formation in 1999.
But the party is 16 short of the majority, while the Bharatiya Janata Party with 25 seats is shy of the magic figure by 19. The National Conference and the Congress with 15 and 12 seats, respectively, are looking to play the role of kingmaker in a hung Assembly, a nightmare for the state.
While the Muslim-majority Kashmir valley has clearly thrown its weight behind the PDP, the Hindu-dominated Jammu region has gone with the BJP. This is likely to sharpen the existing divide between the two regions. While the ideological commitments of Kashmir-centric parties — the PDP and the NC — are diametrically opposite, the given political arithmetic has thrown the chessboard quite open, leaving room for manoeuvring for all parties.
The PDP, which has done well in the Valley, and the BJP, which has more than doubled its numbers in Jammu from 11 in 2008, have emerged as the key players that could form the next government.
But it is a difficult road ahead for both parties with the NC and the Congress holding the key to getting them past the magic figure of 44.
The verdict has, however, brought out a clear regional divide, something that the state has been witnessing since 1983, when Muslim-dominated parts had voted for the NC and given it a clear majority in the then 76-member House, while the Congress took the Jammu region.
This time, the regional and communal polarisation was higher than ever before because of the Valley’s mood against the saffron party and Jammu overwhelmingly favouring the BJP.
The BJP failed to reach anywhere close to its “Mission 44 plus”, a mantra that was chanted by the party from the day it entered the electoral battle in the state, bidding farewell to its core issues of Article 370 and the Uniform Civil Code.
It could not open its account in the Valley and the Ladakh region, but did extremely well in the Jammu region, making inroads into erstwhile Doda district and capturing four out of six districts for the first time. The magic of Congress’ former Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad failed to work there.
The BJP also got a Muslim elected from a Hindu majority constituency of Rajouri, a feat of sorts. Most BJP winners are first-timers, while some of them are converts from the Congress such as Lal Singh from Basholi and RS Pathania from Jammu.
The Congress, which had so far held its fort in the Jammu region, today saw stalwarts such as Deputy Chief Minister Tara Chand, ministers Raman Bhalla, Sham Lal Sharma and Manohar Lal Sharma lose to their BJP rivals for the first time in their political careers.
The NC came down from six to three seats in the region, with its provincial president DS Rana from Nagrota making it to the Assembly along with Kamal Arora from Bishnah and Javed Rana from Mendhar.
What they said
It is not a decisive mandate. It is not even according to our expectations... We are looking for a government which is based on the agenda of good governance. It will take time to find out what formulations can give good governance. We are not in a hurryRs Mehbooba Mufti, pdp president
The option of forming the government, the option of supporting a government and the option of participating in a government are all openRs Amit Shah, bjp president
There was a factor of anti-incumbency against the NC. Also, we had to pay the price of J-K floods. We couldn't have performed better under the given circumstances. It is not ours, but the PDP’s failure, as they didn't get a clear majority, — Omar Abdullah, j-k cm
The call has to be taken by the PDP and decide if they want to go with secular or communal forces. PDP and BJP have been opposing each other tooth and nail in this election. Now PDP has to take the callRs — Ghulam Nabi Azad, congress leader
Omar to quit today, hints at backing PDP
Chief Minister Omar Abdullah will submit his resignation to Governor NN Vohra in Jammu on Wednesday following the declaration of Assembly election results. The Chief Minister will arrive in Jammu in the morning and go straight to Raj Bhawan to meet the Governor and submit his papers. Omar on Tuesday hinted at the possibility of his party supporting their bitter political rival, the PDP, in forming the government. He said it was for the PDP to approach him. “I don't rule out or rule in anything thereafter.”
Lone’s JKPC opens account
The Jammu Kashmir People Conference, led by separatist-turned-politician Sajjad Gani Lone, opened its account in the Assembly by winning two seats. Lone defeated NC minister Choudhary Mohammad Ramzan from Handwara, while Bashir Ahmad Dar beat NC’s legislator Mir Saifullah from Kupwara.
Assailants, who came dressed as lawyers, shot