After India’s partition in 1947, among many refugees who migrated from Pakistan were a group of 5764 families of Hindu as well as Sikh ethnicity, mostly made up of Scheduled Castes who poured in from Sialkot district of Pakistan as refugees into India. Today their total number stands at close to 2 lakh people – however, the question arises whether we should even be referring to them as ‘people’? Democratic India has refused to recognize them as citizens for the past seven decades, granting them no rights whatsoever; they cannot even vote in elections despite being spread across from Jourian to Kathua in the Jammu region.

Perhaps the fate of these Sialkot refugees best defines the plight of Jammu & Kashmir, a state that is stuck somewhere in a time warp with no tangible solution to its woes in sight. Today, the same Kathua and Jammu constituency went to polls in the last and final phase of these historic J&K elections. Many of these ‘nowhere’ people with no citizenship rights are hopeful that a “new government” in the state will finally listen to their woes, but will there be a new government? Or will it once again be a status quo result after all the hoopla dies down?

Of the 20 assembly seats that went to polls today, the two national parties had together won 15 in the previous elections of 2008, with BJP winning 10 and Congress managing to emerge victorious in 5 seats. While National Conference and Independents had managed to win 2 seats each, the BSP had stood a close second in 2 assembly segments.

This time BJP was hoping to almost clean sweep this 5th phase of elections based on their performance in the LS polls, but the question to ask is whether the voters in the Jammu region have disregarded all local political calculations and have voted for Modi once again as they did in the summer? The answer to that question is both yes and no. First, let us look at the “no” part. The truth of the matter is that there has been some adverse impact in Jammu from BJP’s overt campaign to win the minds and hearts of the voters in the valley, creating tensions in the Jammu region which was otherwise solidly behind the saffron party. Also, the rise of PDP even in the Jammu region, always considered a Kashmir-centric party, has been quite surprising to say the least. PDP may actually more than double its vote-share in Jammu region too, but that may not be enough to translate into seats. This is where we come to the “yes” part of support to Modi in Jammu, which mainly arises due to the fact that BJP has a big enough lead in a four-cornered fight to take home the biggest share of seats in today’s polls.

BJP may have done pretty well today if the data received by us from third party sources is to be believed (once again we stress that 5Forty3 did not conduct any pre or post poll surveys in Jammu and Kashmir but instead had access to third party data sources). Our own estimation, based on both the data as well as accurate ground reports till 5 PM from these 20 assembly segments, is that BJP is clearly ahead in 14 of these seats while 5 seats are too close to call and PDP may be ahead in 1 seat.

After five phases of elections in Jammu and Kashmir, it is time to take stock of the situation in totality. Therefore, let us look at the five big factors that emerged from the 2014 assembly elections in this troubled Himalayan state

  1. High turnout, especially in militancy infected areas like Baramulla (even Geelani’s hometown Sopore saw almost 50% more voters turning out to vote, as compared to 2008) has given India a great chance to turn the history of Kashmir from that of separatism and Azaadi to every day governance and democracy – how well can Modi tap this opportunity will possibly define his legacy in south Asia.
  2. A whole new strategy that India has evolved in Kashmir by bringing in a new “carrot-stick-confusion” policy created by the fresh thinking security establishment of India will probably be the foundation on which a new Kashmir will be built
  3. The deepening of the divide between Jammu and Ladakh on one side and Kashmir on the other side may create new dynamics and new challenges to sort out the J&K conundrum, which may get further exacerbated if the election results on 23rd December present a similar dichotomy of favouring different political parties in different regions
  4. Emergence of BJP, a supposedly Hindu nationalist party, in this very important Muslim majority border state with a known historic conflict will likely alter the geopolitical dynamics in the region (must be seen in the backdrop of the larger picture of future US withdrawal from Afghanistan and the possible internal chaos within Pakistan along with the Islamic confrontations of Kashmir valley)
  5. A rethink on all stated positions of all political parties – be it on article 370, AFSPA, or even the continuation as one state.

After all the phases of J&K polls are completed today, our three scenario algorithm presented on Tuesday still holds good. It is almost certain now that the state is heading for a hung assembly and there is a keen fight between BJP and PDP to emerge as the single largest party. For PDP to emerge as SLP (single largest party), the performance of NC and smaller parties like PC (Peoples Conference of Sajjad Lone) in the valley would be crucial. In fact, it wouldn’t be an overstatement to suggest that PDP’s chances are inversely proportional to NC’s performance in this election. For BJP to emerge as the SLP, it has to really perform outlandishly in Jammu which can only happen if the voters of Jammu simply unite to vote for the most popular leader in India today discarding all other ground realities. We must note here that as per a CSDS survey conducted in the last 2 weeks, Prime Minister Modi still enjoys a very high 63% approval rating in the Jammu region which should augur well for the BJP.