J&K braces for first Assembly Elections post Article 370 Abrogation

Amid changed poll dynamics, delimitation, 2024 LS poll %age to play decisive role

Amid the buzz around the assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir gaining momentum, the forthcoming polls are going to be unique in more ways than one- these will be the first elections since the abrogation of Article 370 and the reorganization of the state into two union territories in 2019.

Last Assembly Elections: A Look Back

As per news agency—Kashmir News Observer (KNO), the last assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir were held a decade ago, in 2014. In that election, no party secured an outright majority. The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) emerged as the largest party with 28 seats, while the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) secured 25 seats, the National Conference (NC) 15 seats, and the Congress 12 seats among others. Consequently, the PDP and BJP formed an alliance to establish the state government. However, this coalition government collapsed in June 2018 when the BJP withdrew its support, leaving the state without an elected government since then.

Significance of the 2024 Elections

These elections are particularly significant as they are the first to be held after the abrogation of Article 370, which granted special autonomy to Jammu and Kashmir. The reorganization also bifurcated the state into two union territories: Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh.

Election Dynamics in 2014

In the 2014 elections, 87 seats were contested out of the total 111 seats, as 24 seats were reserved for Pakistan-occupied Jammu and Kashmir (PoJK). The voter turnout was 65.52%. The PDP garnered 22.7% of the votes, BJP 23%, NC 20.8%, and Congress 18%. Despite the BJP receiving the highest number of votes, the PDP won the most seats but still fell short of a majority.

Changes Post-Delimitation

The delimitation exercise in 2020 led to significant changes. Six new seats were added to the Jammu division and one to the Kashmir division, increasing the total number of assembly seats to 114, with 24 seats reserved for PoJK. The remaining 90 seats are divided between Jammu (43 seats) and Kashmir (47 seats).

Voter List Update and Election Timeline

The Election Commission has mandated an update of the voter list by August 20, coinciding with the conclusion of the Amarnath Yatra on August 19. This suggests that the announcement for the assembly elections could follow shortly thereafter.

Political Landscape and Preparations

Political activities have intensified across the region. During his visit to Srinagar, Prime Minister Narendra Modi highlighted election preparations. The BJP has appointed Union Minister G. Krishna Reddy as the election in-charge for Jammu and Kashmir. Congress is also gearing up for the elections, with a strategy meeting scheduled for June 27. Regional parties like the PDP and NC are actively discussing their election strategies as well.

Impact on Lok Sabha Elections

The outcomes of these assembly elections are likely to influence the Lok Sabha elections. Historically, the BJP has had a stronghold in Jammu, while the NC has dominated in Kashmir. The newly created Anantnag-Rajouri Lok Sabha seat, aimed at balancing power, will be a critical battleground.

Votes and Seats in Lok Sabha Elections

In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP secured 24.36% of the votes, NC 22.30%, and Congress 19.38%. The assembly elections will test the BJP’s strategy to retain and potentially expand its influence, particularly in regions with substantial hill and tribal populations, to whom the BJP has recently granted scheduled tribe status.

Rajouri-Poonch is expected to play a crucial role in this assembly election. The region has a significant population of hill people, whose long-standing demand for scheduled tribe status was recently granted by the BJP. This move has led the BJP to anticipate support from the hill community voters. In the newly created Anantnag-Rajouri Lok Sabha seat, established for power balance, the BJP chose not to field a candidate, instead supporting their party.

Out of the 1.42 lakh votes received by the party, 92,521 votes came from these two districts. The party believes that having a candidate with the lotus symbol will benefit them. However, the NC remained strong in this area, securing 305,863 votes—about 90,000 more than the 215,973 votes their candidate received in Kashmir. The PDP received 88,459 votes from these two districts.

 

 

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