Updated February 28th, 2024 at 18:53 IST

Jamaat-e-Islami's Role In Elections: Covert Support And Political Influence

The operational framework of JeI, as cadre-based party coupled with its extensive presence, has been instrumental despite abstention from contesting elections.

Unravelling Nexus: Jamaat-e-Islami’s Political Influence amidst Ban Extension | Image:PTI
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Banned Jamaat-e-Islami's Role in Elections in Jammu & Kashmir:  On Tuesday, the Union Government extended the ban on Jamaat-e-Islami, Jammu and Kashmir, for five more years for continuing activities against the security, integrity and sovereignty of the nation, Union Home Minister Amit Shah said. He also said that anyone threatening the security of the nation will face ruthless measures.

Though most of the party activists have voluntarily distanced themselves from the party’s erstwhile activities, the government agencies still believe that there is some mechanism in place that could be dangerous for the country's solidarity and integrity.

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Sources said that some newly floated political parties were desperately trying to end the ban on Jamaat-e-Islami, as they expected their cadres to join the Lok Sabha Poll fray.

Political analysts have emphasised the crucial role played by Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI) in elections, particularly its discreet support for the People’s Democratic Party (PDP).

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As per them, JeI refrained from direct participation in the 2002 and 2014 assembly elections but provided clandestine backing to political entities- PDP, which helped the party to secure key victories.

“In 2002, JeI provided covert support to political entities- backing Mufti's PDP, which led to their success in securing the highest seat of state - the Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir. The clandestine support included encouraging JeI's cadre to vote for the PDP, a strategy that was observed again during the 2014 assembly elections, further bolstering the PDP's success,” said a political analyst, while wishing anonymity.

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The operational framework of JeI, as a cadre-based party, coupled with its extensive presence, has been instrumental despite its abstention from contesting elections since 1990.

“Mufti had significant liaison with Jamaat-e-Islami leaders. The alignment between Mufti and JeI was indirect, rooted in Mufti's moderate separatist stance, which includes dialogue with Pakistan and infrastructure development—positions that resonate with JeI's agenda,”

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Despite the ban, Jamaat's support to any party remains crucial. While the ban limits JeI's political engagement, its members retain voting rights as ‘individuals’.

“In South Kashmir, JeI’s presence holds sway in Anantnag and Pulwama, where its members backed the PDP in 2014. Similarly, in North Kashmir's Sopore, JeI's influence is expected to be significant," he noted.

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Regarding JeIs impact in the Chenab Valley, he emphasized, “JeI's influence is particularly notable in Doda, Kishtwar, and Bhaderwah. In past elections, JeI's votes in the Chenab Valley have aligned with the PDP, indicating a potential continuation of this trend,”.

Meanwhile, given JeI’s significant role, even the 'Apni Party' led by Syed Altaf Bukhari has been observed forging closer ties with JeI. Altaf's affinity with them was evident from his meetings with JeI leaders held in both Kashmir and Delhi in 2023.

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While talking about the relationship between the National Conference and Jamaat-e-Islami, he said, “The National Conference (NC) and JeI are inherently at odds and unlikely to reconcile. They have been long-standing rivals. Given Jamaat’s historical conflicts with its founder Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah and Farooq Abdullah, NC faces no chance in attracting support from JeI backers,”.

Highlighting the significance of the Anantnag seat for the BJP, he said “Anantnag seat has the potential to be a pivotal factor in Kashmir's political arena, given its inclusion of areas like Poonch and Rajouri, where the BJP holds strong support, particularly in Hindu-majority regions,”.

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Furthermore, the constituency is home to significant Pahari and Gujjar communities, who have been recipients of government initiatives, including the recent grant of Scheduled Tribe status.

If the BJP secures victory in the Anantnag seat, it would signify a historic milestone as the ‘party’s first parliamentary win in Kashmir’.

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In recent years, Jammu and Kashmir has seen a flurry of electoral activities, from Panchayat elections to urban and local bodies elections, culminating in the District Development Council (DDC) elections.

However, the looming Lok Sabha polls are expected to be the most significant yet, promising a pivotal political showdown.

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 “Predicting the voter turnout is challenging, particularly as this is not a state assembly election where turnout tends to be high. Typically, parliamentary polls witness lower voter participation across India, with Kashmir recording notably low percentages in Lok Sabha elections," he emphasized.

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The roots of Jamaat-e-Islami Kashmir can be traced back to the Islamic reformist and anti-Dogra movements in Kashmir. Its founders hailed from middle-class families with connections to Sufism, disillusioned by the secular politics of the National Conference and the Muslim nationalism advocated by the Muslim Conference. Opting for an Islamic path influenced by Maulana Maududi’s teachings.

It contested elections in 1970, 1980 and late 1980 but with the introduction of gun culture in Kashmir that was sponsored by Pakistan, Jamaat directly affiliated with Pakistan's agenda and boycotted the elections. Even in 1972, when NC boycotted the assembly elections, Jamaat contested and won a few seats. Post-1990, the entire separatist movement was virtually controlled by JeI as the HM became its military wing. Till, 2019, this religio-political organisation remained one of the most influential forces in Kashmir Valley. However, with the abrogation of Art 370, 35A, and New Delhi’s harsh stance against terrorism and separatism, like other separatist groups, this party too got weakened. As of today, though its cadres are intact, given the ban by GoI, their political activities have come to a grinding halt.

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Published February 28th, 2024 at 18:53 IST