MISSION 44+ has a ring of the BJP’s successful general election campaign. For a party whose best performance in the 87-member Jammu and Kashmir assembly has been 11 seats in 2008, and which has no seat in Kashmir or Ladakh, it marks the first time it sees itself in a position to chase that majority target.
It is with an eye on that target that BJP president Amit Shah is in Jammu, with a rally scheduled Monday.
The BJP won both Lok Sabha seats in Jammu region as well as Ladakh, with leads in 27 of 41 assembly segments. In the Muslim-majority Kashmir region, the BJP led none of the 46 segments, but hopes to gain following the decision of ruling partners the Congress and the National Conference to contest separately. Its primary focus in the Kashmir Valley is on five seats — Amira Kadal and Habba Kadal in Srinagar, Sopore in Baramulla, and Anantnag and Tral in South Kashmir —where it is banking on Muslim voters going by a boycott called by separatists, and migrant Kashmiri Pandits turning out in its support. The BJP also plans to back some independents who would then support the party in the event of a hung house.
In Jammu region, even the Congress admits the BJP will be its main challenge. MLC Naresh Gupta agrees the Congress’s fight will be against the BJP across this region’s Chenab Valley except in Kishtwar, where the National Conference enjoys a support base. “The BJP’s performance in the region in the Lok Sabha elections was due to many reasons including a Narendra Modi wave and polarisation due to communal clashes in Kishtwar on Eid,’’ Gupta says. “However,” he adds, “the Modi appeal is waning and the atmosphere of polarisation too has faded.”
The BJP is for the first time projecting itself as an alternative to the ruling coalition, which could attract many fence-sitters. It is stressing all-round development. And rather than openly raising its pet issue, abrogation of Article 370, it is urging people to discuss its advantages and disadvantages, party general secretary Bali Bhagat says, and challenging opponents to give at least 10 examples of Article 370 having benefited the people.
The primary strategy, however, is to prevent a split in the Hindu vote by focusing the campaign at ending what it calls Muslim dominance and ushering in BJP rule. The pressure from the Sangh is so intense that even