Srinagar: Powered by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ambitious campaign, the BJP delivered its best performance yet in Jammu and Kashmir but fell well short of a majority, landing 25 of 87 seats. It has more than doubled its seats in the state legislature, with all gains coming from the Hindu-majority Jammu region. (Read Live Updates here)
This was the BJP’s first serious bid for power in India’s only Muslim-majority state.
No party attained a majority. The regional Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was in first place with 28 seats. Describing the result as “below our expectations,” PDP leader Mehbooba Mufti, said her party “is in no hurry” as it examines options for partners. The Congress volunteered. “We are always open. We have allied with PDP in the past,” said Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad.
Omar Abdullah, who is 44 and served as the state’s youngest Chief Minister, said his party, the National Conference, was punished by anti-incumbency and anger among voters over September’s devastating floods in the state. Mr Abdullah’s party placed third in the state; he delivered an industrial-strength newsbreak by stating to NDTV that he cannot rule out supporting the PDP, his arch-rival. That could happen “if Mufti calls,” Mr Abdullah said, referring to PDP leader Mufti Mohammed Sayeed. Hostility between the two regional parties is so extreme that even talk of a covenant, however loose, is epochal.
Mr Abdullah refused to rule out a marriage with the BJP either. “It is 99% no,” he said about the BJP.
“All options are open. We have the option of forming the government, supporting someone and being part of a government led by someone. All three options are open. The BJP will see what intiative the other parties take and decide accordingly,” said BJP president Amit Shah.
But top leaders in the party who did not wish to be named said that the BJP is not keen to tie up with a regional party because the alliance could upset the Hindu voters in the Jammu region who ensured it such significant gains. That calculus is also essential for the PDP, for example, which dominated the overwhelmingly Muslim Kashmir Valley.