The people of Jammu and Kashmir once again on political crossroads as voters, for the third time in a row, have given a fractured mandate.
The year that witnessed many upheavals in this restive state, however, has brought a new hope of peace as voters came out in record numbers defying boycott call by separatists and terror outfits — both in the Lok Sabha and State Assembly elections. The heaviest shelling on the international border since the 1971 Indo-Pak war, ceasefire violations along Line of Control (LoC), terror attacks and worst-ever floods that shattered the relative peace and economy of the state failed to deter the people in all three regions — Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh — from exercising their franchise in large numbers.
The coalition partners — National Conference and the Congress — felt the heat as the kitty of both parties, which contested parliamentary polls in alliance, remained empty, with the PDP and the BJP sharing three seats each of the total six Lok Sabha segments of the state.
It was the biggest-ever drubbing for the NC and the Congress in these polls that added to strained relations between them. Both NC and the Congress ended with just 15 seats and 12 seats, respectively in Assembly polls.
The PDP gained acceptability among all the three regions, particularly in Jammu, where it was seen as party of Kashmiri Muslims after the Amarnath land row in 2008. Although the party touched the highest-ever tally of 28 seats in the 87-member House since its formation in 1999, it remained short of 16 seats to form a majority government.
The BJP, which came to power at the Centre after riding high on the Modi wave, strengthened its support base in Jammu and Kashmir where it had always struggled to cross even the double-figure mark. This time around, the saffron party made a sweep in Jammu by winning 25 out of the 37 seats but it failed to open its account in the Kashmir Valley.
The BJP skipped sensitive and core issues, including abrogation of Article 370 and grant of Union Territory status to Ladakh, confining itself to talk only about development, peace and employment for youth.
PM Narendra Modi, who frequently visited J&K, unlike his predecessors, tried to strike a chord with the people of the Valley promising them development in exchange of their affection.
The state also saw some dark events, ranging from the killing of teenagers in Army firing in Budgam that sparked off protests across the Valley, killing of Panchayat members, migration of thousands from the border areas to safer places following intense shelling by Pakistan and killing of soldiers and innocent people in terror strikes at Uri and Arnia. Cornered by his political opponents on 'bad governance', Omar Abdullah, to gain some ground, went to the extent of raising the issue of Kashmir problem and advocating a solution "according to people's aspirations" — akin to plebiscite.
After witnessing violence, hard times and political hullaballoo in 2014, the people showed faith in the democratic setup. Their yearning for a clean and effective political administration without the shadow of terror was visible in the large numbers in which they turned out.
Painful adieu: Heavy shelling by Pakistan along the international border in Jammu led to the migration of thousands of people to safer places
caught in the cross-fire: Killing of two youth at Chattergam area in Budgam sparked off protests across the Valley. The Army later admitted its mistake
Electrified presence: Two
House for commons: Delhi Development Authority allocated 25,000 flats in its biggest-ever scheme paving the way for planned development in the city
Riots revisited: East Delhis Trilokpuri saw three-days of unabated communal violence following a clash between two communities on Diwali night
Action thriller: During the three-day carnival called the International Premier Tennis League, thousands of fans watched all-time tennis greats live in action
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