Wednesday, 17 August, 2022
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Why assembly elections are likely to be held in J&K next year

BJP has already begun poll preparations in J&K, which comes amid PM Modi’s Independence day speech in which he promised early elections in the UT. 

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New Delhi: Assembly elections are likely to be held in Jammu and Kashmir along with those scheduled in five states — Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Goa and Manipur – in February-March of next year, ThePrint has learnt. 

Sources in the BJP told ThePrint that the party’s Jammu and Kashmir unit has already begun poll preparations, and point to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Independence day speech, in which he promised early elections in the newly-formed union territory, to insist that polls are likely next year.  

According to the BJP sources, it was the party high command that had asked the Kashmir unit to start preparations for elections, while hinting at the possibility of elections being held in the months of March or April next year. 

A senior BJP leader from Jammu and Kashmir told ThePrint that they began poll preparations on 20 August, five days after the Prime Minister’s speech.

“Last year when Prime Minister Modi had spoken from the ramparts of the Red Fort that elections for J&K local bodies would be held soon, those elections were held in December last year,” the leader said. “This time too, PM Modi has declared from the same spot that elections in Jammu and Kashmir will be held soon. The PM’s meeting with various political leaders of Jammu and Kashmir in June was part of that effort. We have been asked to begin our poll preparations with a possibility of elections in March-April. That is why the BJP has started its electoral campaign in Jammu and Kashmir.” 

Sources said the BJP is all set to intensify its poll preparations, with its biggest ever outreach campaign in Jammu and Kashmir from next week, which will see the participation of the entire Modi cabinet.  

“We have started our electoral preparations and are holding meetings in each and every assembly segment,” J&K BJP’s organisation general secretary Ashok Kaul said. “Although elections cannot be held in the months of December and January due to heavy snowfall, they might still be held in the month of March. By then, the Delimitation Commission would also have completed its task.”

Also read: Spread of Taliban’s radical Islam in India depends on govt’s J&K policy

The BJP’s election campaign

According to BJP sources, the party’s poll preparations has so far involved meetings with workers in about 10 constituencies in Jammu. The party is now looking to cover the remaining assembly constituencies within the next two months. 

Apart from the poll preparations by the party organisation, the Modi government is also going to launch its biggest ever government outreach program in Jammu and Kashmir, which will run for nine weeks, from 10 September. 

As part of the event, sources said, about 70 ministers of the Modi cabinet have been asked to visit Jammu and Kashmir regarding schemes of their ministries. 

This outreach campaign will be directly monitored by the Prime Minister’s Office while Jitendra Singh, a minister in the PMO, will draw the outline.

“Timely delivery of schemes will be reviewed through these visits and feedback of the ministers. New schemes will also be launched so that some goodwill can be created among the masses before the elections,” a BJP MP from Jammu and Kashmir told ThePrint.  “During the all-party meeting held in June, the Home Minister as well as the Prime Minister had made it clear that all the parties should cooperate in the electoral process and under the changed circumstances all these parties are left with no other option but to participate in the elections.”

This is the second such initiative. In January 2020, a year and half after the abrogation of Article 370, PM Modi had dispatched more than 36 ministers to Kashmir to communicate with the public. 

Recently, after the culmination of the Monsoon Session of Parliament, around 13 parliamentary committees with over 300 MPs held meetings at different places in Kashmir.

Push for early elections

A senior BJP leader told ThePrint that the push for elections is also due to the changed international scenario with the Taliban taking over in Afghanistan.  

“The significance of the UP election is important in terms of providing more strength to the Modi government and also in its scheme to return to power in 2024, but the Kashmir election is also very crucial with respect to the country’s internal security and changing security dynamics in the region,” the leader said. “It’s important for an elected government to work among the people in J&K. It has diplomatic value and is also directly related to the narrative of the country’s security and nationalism.” 

“We also realise that the way the Taliban has returned back to power in Afghanistan; Pakistan is extremely excited about the Taliban,” he added. “Therefore holding elections (in Kashmir) at the right time and forming an elected government is a very important step. The central government is working according to that timeline.”

The BJP is also confident that it will do well when elections are held. 

“We want early elections. In fact, every party right now wishes for elections. The biggest issue that we are taking to the masses is that under the changed security scenario BJP is the only party that can provide security to all,” BJP spokesperson Sunil Sethi said. “Ever since the abrogation of Article 370, there has been a big drop in the number of terrorist incidents. This has been possible only because of the bold efforts made by the Modi government. Development of Jammu and Kashmir is possible only when there is a reign of peace here and right now BJP is the only party that can provide that kind of peace. Under the changed circumstances, elections are our best option.”

According to BJP leaders, the organisational base of the PDP is not that strong now, but the National Conference is still in a position to offer a good fight. They add that the BJP will do well in the Jammu region and can also be in a strong position on three to four seats in the valley region. 

Meanwhile the government has asked the Delimitation Commission to complete its process as soon as possible and according to sources, it might complete its exercise by November or December. At first, the interim report will be issued for objections. After the delimitation, the strength of the assembly is expected to increase from 83 to 90.

(Edited by Arun Prashanth)

Also read: Valley parties alone in call for Article 370 return, all others wanted it gone, says Ram Madhav


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