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Kashmir News
Sputnik India special correspondent in Jammu & Kashmir is working 24/7 to provide an original & non-biased perception of events in the Kashmiri region.

Inside BJP's Kashmir Campaign: Glimmer of Hope Emerges for 2024 Lok Sabha Elections

© AP Photo / Mukhtar KhanActivists from India's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) party display party flags ahead of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to Srinagar, Indian-controlled Kashmir, Wednesday, March 6, 2024.
Activists from India's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) party display party flags ahead of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to Srinagar, Indian-controlled Kashmir, Wednesday, March 6, 2024. - Sputnik India, 1920, 06.03.2024
Party insiders have expressed optimism over the chances of the ruling Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) winning at least one of the three seats in Kashmir.
Since its inception, the ruling BJP party has never won a single Lok Sabha seat (in the lower house of the Indian parliament) in the Muslim majority Kashmir region.
The three seats in Kashmir had always been secured by the two major regional powers – the National Conference (NC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
This time around, the BJP sees a glimmer of hope in breaking into Kashmir's electoral map, largely because of its recent decision to grant reservations to socially and economically backward communities.

“We are fairly confident on winning Jammu and Ladakh and have a good chance of performing well in Kashmir as well. But if we have to compare our chances on the three seats of Kashmir, I will say we have a better chance in the Anantnag seat,” a senior BJP politician told Sputnik India on the condition of anonymity.

BJP Banking on Anantnag Lok Sabha Seat: Why?

The Anantnag seat, which historically represented southern Kashmir, underwent significant changes in the latest parliamentary election. This reshuffling of constituencies was a result of the federal government's 2019 bill to revoke the semi-autonomous status of Jammu and Kashmir, altering the makeup of the seat.
Although Muslims still make up the majority in Jammu, a significant portion of the area has been incorporated into the Anantnag seat, including various socially and economically diverse communities, which include Hindus and Muslims.
This has caused a division between the Gujjar and Pahari communities, as the former has historically held the schedule tribe (ST) status, thus guaranteeing them reservation in government jobs and educational institutions.
The Gujjar community has claimed that the Paharis are not as economically disadvantaged as they are, and therefore, do not deserve the same reservation benefits.
Despite this ongoing rift, the BJP is hoping that the communities recently granted ST status will vote in their favor, potentially increasing their chances of winning the Anantnag seat for the first time in history.

“It is not a rift. We have also given forest rights to the Gujjar community and removed decades-old repression and stigma they faced. All communities in Jammu and Kashmir realise that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has done a tremendous amount of development for everyone irrespective of caste, creed and community,” said BJP state president Ravinder Raina.

What Challenges Await BJP in Kashmir

Another senior BJP politician said that reservations alone may not help his party “break into Kashmir”.
The party is lacking a popular candidate within the constituency who can compete effectively against the opposition. Additionally, if the opposition alliance had fielded a joint candidate from Anantnag, the BJP would have faced a tougher challenge, according to the politician.
With the NC deciding not to form an electoral alliance with the PDP, the BJP may now have an advantage.
This raises the question of who should be chosen to run in the Anantnag constituency against the potential NC candidate, Mian Altaf, a well-liked tribal politician who has never lost an election. Once BJP member mentioned that the party is in talks with a respected Gujjar community federal government official to go up against Mian Altaf, however, the official's candidacy has not yet been confirmed.
“The PDP might field Mehbooba Mufti (former state chief). The BJP is considering several Kashmiri leaders to fight the NC and PDP but we are leaning on selecting someone from the community (Gujjar Muslim),” said the member.
The member further mentioned that the J&K unit of the BJP has expressed a desire to conduct elections for the state assembly simultaneously with the Lok Sabha elections, in order to enhance their chances of winning seats in the Kashmir province.
With no prominent candidate to contest the Anantnag seat, the BJP will heavily depend on the popularity and appeal of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to secure votes.

Prime Minister’ Narendra Modi's visit to Kashmir this week is likely to boost the party’s morale. However, it's not the only strategy the party is deploying.

The BJP recently convened a meeting of 200 scholars in Anantnag. Additionally, the Bharatiya Janata Party Yuva Morcha (BJYM) organized a Yuviti Samelan (a conference for young women), where they invited several ladies from Anantnag to participate.
A senior BJP politician mentioned that in the upcoming weeks, the party intends to conduct meetings with transporters, traders, and individuals who have benefited from various schemes implemented by the federal government.

“We have begun our mobilisation. All I can say is that it's not going to be a cakewalk for the parties who have exploited Kashmir,” remarked Sunil Sharma, a former minister and BJP politician.

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