As Abdullah family's bastion shakes, NC-Cong experience rout

As Abdullah family's bastion shakes, NC-Cong experience rout

The results of Lok Sabha polls in Jammu & Kashmir have come as a surprise for many analysts as ruling Congress-National Conference (NC) alliance received the severest shock in recent election history of the state.

While the NC was decimated in Kashmir valley by the regional Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the Congress was routed in Jammu and Ladakh regions by the BJP.

By Friday evening, as results of all six parliamentary constituencies were declared, it was clear that the state was on course of a wave that would surely affect the political landscape of J&K in the coming days. It was for the first time that three-time chief minister of J&K and five-time MP Farooq Abdullah had lost any election and that too in the party’s bastion, Srinagar. The patriarch of the powerful Abdullah family that has been mostly ruling the state for decades was routed by PDP candidate Tariq Hameed Karra by 42,183 votes. Farooq Abdullah and his son Omar Abdullah entered Parliament through the gates of Srinagar in the last more than three decades. PDP’s victory in 15 Assembly segments of Srinagar-Budgam parliament constituency scripted a shocking result for the NC this time. Karra obtained a lead of 2,913 even in Omar Abdullah’s Ganderbal assembly constituency represented by him in the state legislature.

NC’s two other candidates and sitting MPs Sharif-ud-Din Shariq and Mehboob Beg, who lost from North and South Kashmir constituencies by a margin of 29,219 and 65,417 votes respectively to PDP candidates Muzaffar Hussain Beig and Mehbooba Mufti respectively, completed the overthrow of the NC from the Valley.The Assembly segment-wise details of votes polled for the Lok Sabha elections in Kashmir valley show that PDP took lead in 39 of the 46 Assembly seats in the Valley while the NC could manage to out-do the opposition candidates in just five segments. A political party, or a coalition, needs 44 seats to form a government in Jammu & Kashmir. With the defeat of Abdullah the writing on the wall is clear for Kashmir’s oldest political party. Though nobody can say with authority was it anger against NC or support for PDP that turned the tables in favour of the latter, one thing is sure that the decline of NC which started with the defeat in 2002 Assembly polls is almost complete now.

Immediately after the defeat shocked Omar said the fault probably lies with the style of his campaigning as PDP made 2010 killings and hanging of Afzal Guru the corner stone of their campaign. Had it been so, then NC campaigned even more determinedly on the Modi card and played it against their rivals which unfortunately didn’t work. In campaigning NC is matchless. So Omar need not edit his manifesto and need not change his way of canvassing. The fault lies somewhere else. It lies in the arrogant disregard for people.

Bitter defeat

Political analysts believe this defeat especially in Srinagar constituency will hurt the NC badly as it was the face of the party for decades. Before the start of LS polls senior Abdullah has termed Srinagar constituency as the jugular vein of his party and family. At a closed-door meeting of the senior NC leaders in Srinagar, Omar had categorically said that only those candidates would be given a mandate for the legislative Assembly elections scheduled in November this year who would secure lead for the party in their respective constituencies. 

In Jammu region NC alliance partner Congress faced complete rout in its traditional strong bastion in Jammu and Udhampur LS seats, where even its incumbent state ministers faced humiliating defeat in the assembly segments represented by them. Congress lost in 24 out of the 37 Assembly segments falling in Jammu region, with most its ministers losing by convincing margins.

In the prestigious Udhampur-Doda-Kathua constituency, BJP candidate Jitendra Singh, a novice, inflicted an ignominious defeat on the Congress candidate and Union health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad. Azad is also former J&K chief minister and considered Sonia Gandhi’s ‘trouble-shooter.’ The defeat of Azad came as a shock to the Congress camp. Tough it can be said that he lost due to Modi wave and communal polarisation in Jammu region, the party could not muster the number of votes as it expected from the constituencies represented by coalition MLAs and ministers.

The BJP, riding high on Modi wave, performed exceptionally well in the sensitive border militant-infested State by not only winning both the Lok Sabha seats in Jammu province but also capturing the lone Ladakh seat for the first time in 65 years. BJP state president Jugal Kishore Sharma, defeated the shrewd two-time Congress MP Madan Lal Sharma from Jammu-Poonch seat, by a whopping  margin of 2,57,280 votes, the highest ever victory margin in the state.

In Ladakh, the BJP candidate and son-in-law of Queen of Ladakh Rani Parvati, Thupstan Chhewang, won the election by defeating independent candidate backed by a powerful religious institution Ghulam Raza by a slender margin of 36 votes.  Though Chhewang won by a slim margin, it hardly matters because none had ever thought that the BJP could secure a seat in Ladakh. Chhewang had represented the constituency as Ladakh Union Territory Front (LUTF) candidate between 2004 and 2009.

NC and Congress fought the Lok Sabha polls in a pre-poll alliance with the national party contesting the two seats of Jammu and Ladakh while the regional party fielding candidates from the three seats of the valley. Both the parties drew a blank. Now it would be interesting to see how the parliament election results would affect the upcoming Assembly polls.

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