The mainstream Kashmir based political parties are upset as they fear that the separatists’ call for poll-boycott might help the BJP.
The separatist leaders, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik had given the poll boycott call but people defied it on 11 April when more than 35% polling was recorded in the Baramulla Lok Sabha constituency in North Kashmir.
Embarrassed over the defiance, Geelani on Friday reiterated the call saying that a “non-serious” response by people would further delay the achievement of “our goal”.
Of the six Lok Sabha seats in J&K, the Kashmir valley has a total number of 3 seats and the remaining two seats, Srinagar and Anantnag, will go to polls during the next four phases of the election.
The BJP is making every possible effort to, for the first time, win at least one Lok Sabha seat in the valley. The party is trying to make inroads in the valley with the support of nearly 1 lakh Kashmiri Pandit migrants for whom special polling booths have been established in Delhi and various parts of Jammu.
The National Conference (NC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) leadership, in particular, had, earlier this month, urged the separatists not to call for poll boycott as it might benefit the BJP in the elections.
When contacted, former PDP minister, Naeem Akhtar, agreed that the boycott could help the BJP but giving such call was on the agenda of separatists.
It is worth mentioning that the boycott calls in the past were successful when polling for Lok Sabha around 10 to 12 per cent was recorded in the valley. However, the Kashmir-centric parties have this time made protection of the Articles 370 and 35A an electoral issue. They are accusing the BJP of trying to scrap these Constitutional provisions that provide special status to J&K.
As a strategy to prevent the division of their votes, the NC and PDP have not fielded their candidates against the Congress on both Lok Sabha seats of the Jammu division. The BJP had benefitted even in the Muslim dominated areas of the Doda, Kishtwar, Rajouri and Poonch districts in the Assembly elections of 2014 when their votes got divided and several BJP candidates turned victorious.
A Kashmiri Pandit, Raman Mattoo, who contested the Assembly election for Srinagar’s downtown Habbakadal seat as an independent in 2002, won while sitting 300 km away in Jammu by polling a meagre 587 votes of migrants.
Leaders of the NC, PDP, Congress, CPI (M) and other parties were probably afraid that the migrants might play spoilsport if the polling percentage remained low.