Updated February 26th, 2024 at 21:00 IST

Jammu and Kashmir Preps for High-Stakes Lok Sabha Elections Amidst Statehood Transition

In 2019, LS polls witnessed a fierce competition between the JKNC and BJP. The contest is expected intensify this year with many new and old players in fray.

Lok Sabha Election 2024 | Battle For Jammu and Kashmir | Image:Republic
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Srinagar: As the countdown begins for the upcoming Lok Sabha Elections, Jammu and Kashmir finds itself at a critical juncture of political transformation. The transition from a state to a union territory, coupled with the separation of Ladakh from its electoral constituencies, has redefined the dynamics of the electoral landscape, setting the stage for a fascinating and pivotal event.

Historically, Jammu and Kashmir boasted six Lok Sabha seats. However, with its reclassification as a union territory, the number of seats has reduced to five, with Ladakh emerging as a distinct entity. Despite these alterations, the J&K’s significance in the national electoral arena remains paramount, with winning a majority here signifying substantial electoral success for national parties.

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Going by history, the political spectrum in Jammu and Kashmir has long been dominated by local parties such as, Jammu and Kashmir National Conference (JKNC), People's Democratic Party (PDP) and People’s Conference. However, the emergence of national players like Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the new entrants like Apni Party, among others has added layers of complexity to the electoral dynamics.

In 2019, Lok Sabha Elections witnessed a fierce competition between the JKNC and BJP, resulting in a 3-3 tie. As the 2024 elections approach, the contest is expected to intensify further, with both regional and national parties vying for electoral supremacy.

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Recent developments, including the decision of the National Conference to go solo in the upcoming elections, indicate the shifting alliances and strategies in J&K. Party Chief Farooq Abdullah’s assertion of contesting elections on the party's own strength stresses the changing political landscape among the Gupkar Alliance members.

Moreover, Apni Party's decision to field candidates in all five parliamentary constituencies signifies its ambition to establish a significant electoral presence amidst evolving dynamics.

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BJP, aligned with the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), remains resolute in its quest to maintain and expand its electoral footprint in the region. Despite challenges posed by recent delimitation changes, the party's targeted outreach to diverse communities in securing electoral gains.

The inclusion of areas like Poonch and Rajouri has bolstered the BJP’s support base, encompassing Gujjar-Bakerwal, Pahari Muslim and Hindu communities. The party's focus on tribal outreach in Kashmir further emphasizes its commitment to inclusive development and political representation.

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On Tuesday, in a calculated strategic manoeuvre aimed at enhancing their electoral chances, JK People’s Conference (JKPC) announced ‘Sajad Gani Lone’ as its candidate for the Baramulla Parliamentary seat, indicating the party's determination to strengthen its support base in pivotal constituencies.

National Conference (JKNC) has reportedly decided to nominate Farooq Abdullah, former Chief Minister, as its candidate for the Srinagar constituency.

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Additionally, Mian Altaf Ahmad, a recognized Gujjar leader and religious figure from the Anantnag constituency in south Kashmir, is anticipated to be a prominent contender, particularly given the significant presence of Gujjar, Bakerwal, and Pahari communities following the 2022 delimitation.

In what could shape up to be a direct contest, Altaf may face off against Mehbooba Mufti,  president of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and former Chief Minister, who is expected to enter the Lok Sabha polls.

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Other contenders for the Anantnag Lok Sabha seat include Ghulam Ahmad Mir, former president of the J&K unit of Congress, and Ravindra Raina, the president of the J&K unit of the BJP.

Meanwhile, the forthcoming visit of the Election Commission of India (ECI) to Jammu & Kashmir on March 12 and 13 holds significant importance.

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Led by Chief Election Commissioner Rajiv Kumar and Election Commissioners Anup Kumar Pandey and Arun Goel, ECI's visit aims to review the preparedness for the upcoming Lok Sabha polls scheduled for April-May and assess the feasibility of conducting Assembly polls in the union territory.

The visit will involve meetings with various stakeholders, including political parties, civil administration officials and police authorities, to gather insights and perspectives on the electoral process.

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Additionally, the ECI is expected to examine the administrative and security situation in Jammu & Kashmir to ensure smooth conduct of the elections.

Of particular interest is the ‘possibility’ of holding Assembly polls in J&K, which were last conducted in November-December 2014.

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Supreme Court's directive on December 11, 2023, urging the ECI to conduct Assembly polls by September 30, 2024, emphasizes the urgency of addressing the aspect of the electoral process.

However, former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah recently expressed his dismay, stating that it is a matter of significant concern that the Supreme Court had to intervene and issue directives regarding elections in Jammu and Kashmir instead of the Election Commission of India.

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Published February 26th, 2024 at 20:05 IST