J&K Parties Shift Focus to Protecting Kashmiri Identity Ahead of Elections

Jammu and Kashmir's mainstream parties shift focus from Article 370 to protecting Kashmiri identity in upcoming elections, as the political landscape evolves post-abrogation.

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Rafia Tasleem
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J&K Parties Shift Focus to Protecting Kashmiri Identity Ahead of Elections

J&K Parties Shift Focus to Protecting Kashmiri Identity Ahead of Elections

As Jammu and Kashmir gears up for the upcoming elections, the political landscape is witnessing a significant shift in the discourse and priorities of mainstream parties. The National Conference (NC), People's Democratic Party (PDP), and People's Conference (PC) have abandoned their traditional slogans and demands for restoring the special status of J&K under Article 370. Instead, they are now focusing on preventing what they perceive as an onslaught on Kashmiri identity, land, jobs, and resources.

This change in stance comes in the wake of the BJP's muscular policies following the abrogation of Article 370 in 2019. The parties are wary of directly challenging the Centre's decision and are using more subtle language to express their concerns. The political discourse has shifted, with the parties now prioritizing escaping the Centre's wrath over their previous maximalist demands for internal autonomy and self-rule.

The ongoing Lok Sabha election is the first major poll in Jammu and Kashmir since the revocation of Article 370. The contest in the Anantnag constituency is shaping up to be a triangular one between the NC, PDP, and the J&K Apni Party, which is perceived to be backed by the BJP. The Election Commission of India (ECI) has rescheduled the polling for the Anantnag-Rajouri constituency from May 7 to May 25, citing logistical and connectivity issues raised by various political parties.

Why this matters: The shifting political narrative in Jammu and Kashmir reflects the complex dynamics at play in the region post the abrogation of Article 370. The upcoming elections will serve as a litmus test for the mainstream parties' ability to navigate the new political reality while addressing the concerns of the Kashmiri people.

The decision to defer the polling has drawn mixed reactions from the political parties. The NC and PDP have called it a conspiracy to disenfranchise a significant portion of the population, particularly the Gujjar and Bakkerwal tribal communities, who form a significant vote bank for the NC candidate Mian Altaf Larvi. PDP leader Naeem Akhtar accused the BJP of creating the Anantnag-Rajouri constituency to exploit religious and caste fault lines, calling it a "pre-poll rigging" through the delimitation commission.

The BJP and its ally Apni Party are expected to benefit from the recent grant of tribal status to the Pahari-speaking people in the Poonch and Rajouri districts, which account for over 56% of the constituency's population. The election is expected to be a closely contested battle between the NC, PDP, and the BJP's ally Peoples Conference candidate Zaffar Iqbal Manhas.

As the political parties in Jammu and Kashmir adapt to the new realities and challenges, the upcoming elections will provide a platform for them to articulate their vision for the region's future. The focus on protecting Kashmiri identity,

Key Takeaways

  • Mainstream parties in J&K shift focus from Article 370 to protecting Kashmiri identity.
  • Lok Sabha election in Anantnag constituency is a triangular contest between NC, PDP, and Apni Party.
  • ECI defers Anantnag-Rajouri polling, drawing criticism from NC and PDP as "conspiracy".
  • BJP and Apni Party expected to benefit from granting tribal status to Pahari-speaking people.
  • Upcoming elections to test mainstream parties' ability to navigate post-Article 370 realities.