“D.P”, as he was known among friends in the political and diplomatic circles, held the then most important diplomatic position in India’s foreign policy matrix. He was a two-time ambassador to the Soviet Union, first in 1969 and then again in 1975, when India was a staunch ally of the communist superpower in a bipolar world, and was also the one who negotiated the all-important “non-aggression pact” with Soviet Russia in 1971. A Kashmiri politician of some repute, Durga Prasad Dhar (D.P) is also credited for his role as a bridge between the army and the common people of Kashmir during the 1947 Indo-Pak war when he apparently helped the army in administrative matters.
D.P’s popularity in and around Srinagar was said to be “second to none” during the early years of independence as was also evident from his stupendous victory in the 1962 elections to the Kashmir assembly. Durga Prasad Dhar won the Habbakadal assembly segment in Srinagar in 1962 by securing a whopping 95% vote-share in the polls. He was the sole Hindu leader in the valley to secure such a huge victory; in fact, just to put that win in perspective, it must be noted that Sheikh Abdullah, the then so-called “prime minister” of Kashmir, won from the neighbouring Zadibal seat by securing a 12 point lower 83% vote-share.
Those were the days when the valley still had some sense of sanity and Kashmiri Pandits were an integral part of the local society. Even in the 1967 election, S.N Kaul was elected with a handsome lead from the same Habbakadal constituency, when Bharatiya Jana Sangh too contested the seat and secured a respectable 20% vote-share and a close third position. It all changed after the 1967 communal violence when Hindus were systematically targeted and many of them were forced to migrate out of the valley.
Most of us tend to believe that Kashmiri separatism turned violent only in the mid-80’s with the mass daylight butchery of Pandits, but the fact is that the political process had already begun in 1947 due to the openly communal politics of Sheikh Abdullah and the selective blindness of Delhi led by the secular-fundamentalist government of Pandit Nehru. For instance, in 1947, when Muzaffarabad was occupied by Pakistan, nearly 22000 Hindus and Sikhs migrated from Pak-Occupied-Kashmir, but were not allowed to settle in the valley, terming them as “aliens”. Similar was the fate of thousands of Dogra Rajputs in Kulgam region. At the same time, Muslim refugees who came over to the valley from Sinkiang province of China during the civil war of 1948 were accorded immediate Kashmiri citizenship. This selective communal colonization of Kashmir has also been one of the fundamental contributors to the present violent conundrum in the valley and Nehru is the primary culprit of history.
Today, the same Habbakadal went to polls amidst tight security and with a boycott call hanging over its head. Reports now suggest a turnout of 21% in this constituency (in valley), which means an actual turnout of about 11k voters. This is a constituency with 16271 Pandit voters of whom only 2817 Pandits turned out today. In the run-up to the elections, BJP’s Moti Lal Kaul had vigorously campaigned in Jammu and Delhi, where most of the migrant Pandit voters are located, but his efforts seem to have not really clicked as more than 60% Pandits did not vote for various reasons.
In the neighbouring Amirakadal seat, which saw 25% polling today, BJP’s Hina Bhatt is a dark horse. Both PDP and NC are locked in an almost equal battle and the resultant vote-split may make the 1k-odd Pandit votes crucial here. There were some reports indicating that Ms. Bhatt may have also made some inroads into Kashmiri Muslim votes here with her high-pitched campaign. This is a seat that should go to the wires, especially because a large number of women voters were seen casting votes in areas like Ikhrajpora (who were specifically targeted by BJP).
In the rest of Srinagar’s total 8 seats, which, incidentally, were clean swept by National Conference last time around, Omar Abdullah’s party has an edge only in 2 other seats – Sonawar and Khanyar. Among the remaining 4 seats, PDP is clearly ahead in 3 and 1 seat is too close to call. All of this tells us about the depth of the meltdown of support that National Conference has suffered and the heights of popularity that the PDP has attained – a party whose previous best tally was merely 21.
This fourth phase election once again proves that, even in erstwhile separatist strongholds of downtown Srinagar area, there is a remarkable increase in polling percentage which underlines the importance of this election. Yes, the polling in the very urban Srinagar (with its high sympathy quotient for Azaadi movement) was much lower than in other phases, but in comparison to last time it was indeed remarkable. Srinagar, which was used to seeing as little as 5% polling till as late as 2002, has witnessed a historic 30% overall turnout today which is unprecedented. India must seize this opportunity and try and integrate Kashmir into the mainland in totality. This is a golden opportunity for our new Prime Minister so early in his term.
In the 8 seats of Anantnag & Shopian sectors, although the contest was mainly between PDP and NC with Congress being the third pole, Mufti Mohammad Syeed’s party was the frontrunner across the board today and whatever seats the other parties may score would be minor miracles in their own rights. For instance, in both Doru as well as Kokernag – both Congress strongholds until now – PDP was ahead till latest reports came in at about 5 PM today. It is quite clear that anti-incumbency is hurting both Congress and NC, while there is a clear vote for change in favour of PDP.
In the two seats of Jammu – Samba and Vijaypur – BJP was distinguishably ahead of rest of the pack with 30-36% of the total popular vote as per data received from third party sources (5Forty3 did not conduct polls on its own anywhere in Jammu and Kashmir).
With four phases completed, Jammu & Kashmir is now almost at the altar of inaugurating a new government and waking up to a new dawn like the rest of India. It is time for us election analysts to crystal gaze and look at what the future government might look like in this embittered state. Here, we must stress on two aspects before we try to project the future of J&K.
Primarily, the Kashmir polls were not like the rest of India, wherein voters go out to determine a political winner, but were more about a battle between separatism and democracy. To that extent, no matter who emerges victorious on the 23rd of December, India would really have won a crucial battle against Pakistan.
Second, we at 5Forty3 Data Labs did not conduct any pre or post poll in the state and only analyzed the elections based on ground reports through a group of six, known as the Kashmir Monitoring Group (KMG), who provided us with valuable inputs on all polling days through their own widespread networks. Although we did get some third party polling data for Jammu and Ladakh region, we were mostly and technically data blind throughout the polls.
Assuming that the BJP cleansweeps the next and the final phase of the J&K polls, both BJP and PDP are in strong contention to emerge as the single largest party in the state assembly (which in itself is a remarkable achievement considering that BJP’s best tally in the state till now stood at a paltry 11 seats). Based on that understanding, here are three scenarios that may unfold after the 23rd of December, each having equal probability for success.
- That of BJP emerging as the SLP but with a deficit of more than 10 MLAs for a clear majority and then taking the support of NC and other smaller parties to form a government – 30% mathematical probability
- PDP and BJP emerging with almost equal number of seats and joining hands to form a stable coalition government – 30% mathematical probability
- PDP emerging as the SLP but falling short by a few seats and then forming the government with the support of Congress and other smaller parties – 30% mathematical probability
Of course, there is a fourth possibility also, that of either PDP or BJP emerging with a clear majority, but such an event has a mathematical probability of as low as 10%, based on observations to date. Thus Kashmir may buck the trend of other elections in India which generally tend to produce clear mandates.
(Featured image: is a pamphlet released by Kashmir Information Bureau in 1948 depicting Pandit women which was designed by famous painter Sobha Singh).