By Sushil Kutty
It’s like the paraglider flying over the concertina wire fence on the Israel-Gaza border. The Bharatiya Janata Party was caught napping and given a devastating electric jolt. Such that Kargil heroes, those alive and who were martyred would cheer. The BJP’s defeat in the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council-Kargil elections is a wake up call for the saffron party. Time for a reality check. The National Conference and Congress alliance are top of the hill in the first elections held since Article 370 was scrapped.
National Conference leader Omar Abdullah couldn’t be more elated. The portents are encouraging. The landslide victory saw the NC-Congress winning 21 seats while the BJP was at the bottom with just a couple. Makes people wonder if the BJP is in love with the number ‘2’. BJP leaders are often heard bragging how they went from 2 to 303. But that is another story. For now, the NC-Congress victory is the only story.
Elections were held on October 4 to the 26 seats. Four members were nominated by the Jammu and Kashmir administration in the 30-member LAHDC-Kargil. The big message for the BJP is that the NC-Congress alliance is strong and and the Kargil electorate had put its seal on the acceptance of the alliance. More importantly, the NC-Congress stole victory virtually from under the hopes of the Bharatiya Janata Party which holds the reins of the administration but isn’t the people’s choice.
“In celebration of our strong alliance with the Congress party, the Jammu and Kashmir National Conference is delighted to announce its victory in the LAHDC-Kargil elections,” Omar Abdullah said, sporting the biggest grin under the Srinagar sun, stating the LAHDC-Kargil outcome was a message to Union Home Minister Amit Shah and Prime Minister Narendra Modi that divide Jammu and Kashmir hadn’t the people’s approval. The least the Modi-Shah duo could have done was to take the people into confidence in the best traditions of democracy.
The division of the state of Jammu and Kashmir is only now bearing fruit. “This result sends a message to all forces and parties that have, undemocratically and unconstitutionally, divided the state of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh without the consent of its people,” the National Conference leader said. The elected councilors can take it ahead from here on and pave the road for a bigger and larger victory in the “state elections” that are still to come.
Abdullah couldn’t stop himself from giving his heartfelt thanks and gratitude to the Congress leadership for the “unwavering support”. That was equivalent to rubbing more salt into the BJP’s open wound. Abdullah blasted the BJP for “hiding behind the Raj Bhawan and unelected representatives” and refusing to bow to the rightful desire of the people for an elected government. In a democracy the voices of the people must be heard and respected.
The voting saw over 77% voter turnout. The people of Kargil were eager to express their choice in the first polls in the region after the abrogation of Article 370 and the division of Jammu and Kashmir into two Union Territories. Notably, Mehbooba Mufti’s Peoples Democratic Party stayed away. The NC and the Congress fought jointly but there were “friendly contests’ in over a dozen seats. The Aam Aadmi Party contested in four and lost on all four.
Kargil’s people did not forget Rahul Gandhi’s visit as an extension of his Bharat Jodo Yatra and Congress workers credited Gandhi for the resounding defeat of the BJP. No doubt, Modi and Shah must have thought of the impact and influence left by the Bharat Jodo Yatra on people, not just in Kargil-Drass but everywhere across India, particularly in the states through which the yatra wound its south to north route.
That is another message for the BJP from these elections in the Kargil Hill Council Elections. Rahul Gandhi’s recent visit to Kargil & Ladakh had raised a lot of dust and controversy and it seems the motorcycle he rode cast a vroom effect on the elections in favour of the NC-Congress alliance. That said, the national media seemed to have deliberately missed reporting the resounding defeat of the BJP, the “almost complete wipeout”.
The BJP’s claim of the region’s development following the abrogation of Article 370 lies in tatters. The BJP had fought the elections on the development plank. But the landslide of the NC-Congress alliance exposed the BJP’s boast. This NC-Congress alliance victory is a big boost for the INDI-Alliance, which can take the BJP’s defeat to every corner of India, especially the bit about Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra and the long-lasting impact it has left on the electorate everywhere.
The NC-Congress alliance fought the elections on the abrogation of Article 370; how it had disempowered the people of the region and how the “state” lost resources and jobs to “outsiders”. The fact of the matter is, the BJP had no chance in Muslim majority Kargil. Sometimes it is hard to believe that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is so unaware of the ground reality and continues to plod on with totally misconceived ideas. The BJP’s hopes of carving out an island of saffron in the snowy heights of Ladakh-Drass lies in shards in the foothills of the mighty Himalayas. (IPA Service)