New Delhi: Given Jammu and Kashmir’s (J&K's) troubled history and a low voter turnout in the 2014 general elections, parties may face a tough time in the polls this time. Polling in the Anantnag parliamentary seat will be held over three phases. Mint looks at the electoral dynamics of the state.
What is the origin of J&K’s troubled history?
The state was a Muslim-majority state, but ruled by a Hindu king. At the time of independence, the ruler, like those of other princely states, was asked to choose between India and Pakistan. The Hindu ruler flirted with the idea of staying independent. But when his state was attacked by Pakistani tribesmen in October 1947, he sought India’s help. It agreed to provide him military assistance on the condition that he acceded to India. Kashmir became part of India and the king, with help from the centre, was able to push back the tribals and the Pakistani forces, which had joined them in the later stages of hostilities.
What gives J&K special status in India?
Article 370 and Article 35A, which stems from the former, give India’s northernmost state special status. Article 370 restricts New Delhi’s legislative jurisdiction to J&K’s defence, foreign affairs and communications. There are divergent views on whether the article can be deleted or if the Indian government needs the assembly’s approval to abolish it. Article 35A empowers the J&K legislature to define the state’s permanent residents and their special rights and privileges. The Indian government cannot impose a national or financial emergency in the state. Outsiders are not allowed to buy property in J&K.
Which are the main political parties?
The National Conference (NC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) are regional parties. BJP dominates the Jammu and Ladakh regions, but has no presence in the valley.
When did the current problem get stoked?
The 1987 assembly polls were said to have been rigged to prevent the centre from losing control of the state’s politics to a first-time local outfit, the Muslim United Front. The Congress government at the centre arrested its leaders, who then turned militant and are today the poster boys for calls of “azadi". They include Sayeed Salahuddin of the Hizbul Mujahideen and Yasin Malik of the J&K Liberation Front. PDP and NC are part of a civil and political process. The Hurriyat has refused to be part of the Indian political process.
What’s the outlook for the Lok Sabha polls?
The state’s 49.52% voter turnout in 2014 was the lowest among all the states, reflecting the fear people have of terror outfits and their distrust in the political process. BJP won three seats in Jammu and Ladakh last time, but may not top that. Ex-BJP leader Choudhary Lal Singh, who is contesting from the Jammu and Udhampur seats, may eat into the party’s votes. PDP will have a tough time in the valley after its alliance with BJP collapsed. Congress and the NC are fighting the elections in an alliance on some seats.