Lok Sabha Elections 2024: Jailed candidate’s victory signals shift as soft separatism may take center stage in J&K

His win, built on a platform that transcended sentiment and emotional appeals, heralds in a new era in the region's electoral politics.
Last Updated : 06 June 2024, 10:05 IST
Last Updated : 06 June 2024, 10:05 IST

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Srinagar: In the wake of jailed independent candidate Sheikh Abdul Rashid's unexpected victory from Baramulla Lok Sabha seat, the political landscape of Jammu and Kashmir is buzzing with anticipation.

His win, built on a platform that transcended sentiment and emotional appeal, heralds in a new era in the region's electoral politics. The poll campaign of Rashid, who is imprisoned in Tihar Jail under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), was driven by subtle anti-state sentiments.

Rashid, who has long been a controversial figure in Kashmiri politics, ran his campaign from behind bars resonating deeply with a segment of the population that feels marginalised and disenchanted. The electorate's response to Rashid's candidacy is being interpreted as a clear signal of growing support for a softer form of separatism.

There are apprehensions that it can give rise to discussions on soft separatism potentially becoming a central theme in the upcoming assembly elections.

As much awaited assembly elections loom on the horizon, the region's two main local parties—the National Conference (NC) and the People's Democratic Party (PDP) find themselves at crossroads, forced to rethink their strategies.

Political analysts suggest that Rashid's victory could embolden the NC and the PDP to adopt similar stances. “With assembly elections on the horizon, the two mainstream parties may feel compelled to recalibrate their strategies, incorporating elements of Rashid's rhetoric to capture the prevailing public sentiment,” policy analyst and senior journalist from Jammu  Zaffar Choudhary told DH.

Choudhary believes that separatist sentiment sprouting was clearly visible during Rashid’s poll campaign. “He is a person who is in jail on terror charges and still won against a high profile politician like Omar Abdullah. It has created a sort of fear among the NC and the PDP and they will try to copy the same campaign style in future,” he added.

A senior NC leader on the condition of anonymity said that they recognise the shift “as people are telling us something.”

“They (people) want a break from the past. Engineer Rashid has tapped into a sentiment that's been growing quietly. We must have to listen to this and need to adapt, or we risk becoming irrelevant,” he said.

Moreover, Rashid's imprisonment under UAPA, a law intended to combat terrorism, adds a layer of complexity to the situation. His victory underscores the electorate’s defiance and dissatisfaction with the central government's approach to dissent and political expression in the region.

In the coming months, the political arena in Kashmir is likely to witness increased activity, with candidates and parties striving to align their platforms with the electorate's aspirations.

As soft separatism takes center stage, the region's political narrative is set to undergo a transformation that could redefine its future trajectory.

Both the NC and the PDP may be forced to pivot towards a softer, more nuanced form of separatism—one that acknowledges the unique identity and aspirations of Jammu and Kashmir without alienating the broader electorate that craved development and good governance.

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Published 06 June 2024, 10:05 IST

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