Hina Bhat, one of the two Kashmiri Muslim women who contested as candidates for the Bharatiya Janata Party from the Kashmir Valley, became famous for her controversial statements during the election campaign for Jammu and Kashmir State elections.
On Tuesday, Bhat lost from the Amirakadal constituency to Altaf Bukhari of the People's Democratic Party. While the BJP won its largest share of seats in state, the Hindu-nationalist party failed to make a dent in the Muslim-majority Kashmir Valley.
The elections in Jammu and Kashmir assembly this year was one of the most controversial because of two factors—the BJP’s audacious bid for power in the Kashmir Valley, wracked by decades of militancy, and one of the highest voter turnouts in the aftermath of the devastating floods in September.
Bhat is a dental surgeon and daughter of a former National Conference leader, Muhammad Shafi Bhat, who won several elections from the Amirakadal constituency since the 1990s.
While the leaders of the BJP, PDP and the NC are sorting through various permutations to form the government, HuffPost India spoke to Bhat about whether she now regrets joining forces with the BJP and the future prospects of her party in the Kashmir Valley.
Why do you think the election results didn't go your way?
We got very little time. The Valley was badly hit by floods and then very soon, unexpectedly, the elections were declared. In a short while, we tried to make our ground and we have succeeded to a large extent. Yeah, we could not make it because of lots of problems we had to face. The administration tried to put up hurdles for us. They were not cooperative with the BJP candidates. But still we had made a mark.
What kind of mark have you made?
This is the first time that BJP has got inroads in the Valley. The day I joined, which was 19th July, since then I could see that people were really keen and interested in joining BJP openly. This was a change. And now, people are really coming up openly. If we compare the situation to a year back, people would not even talk about the BJP. Now we have a cadre that is openly saying that yes we are from BJP.
But the BJP didn’t get any seats in the Valley.
Don’t just look at the small picture. In such a short time, we had candidates who contested on BJP tickets. Congress being here for such a long time could not pick up the right candidates and lots of people have lost the elections. We had Modi Ji coming to Srinagar to campaign. In my constituency, Amit Shah came for the campaign. And our rallies went smoothly and people were not aggressive. We had a smooth campaign here.
Do you regret joining forces with the BJP instead of the PDP?
Not at all. I don’t regret anything at all. I’m proud to be in BJP. I’m really a fan of Mr. Modi. My ideology does not click with PDP. When Modi Ji is there something really great will happen for Kashmir. I don’t starve for power. There should be a representative from Jammu & Kashmir who can break the gap which was created between centre and state.
Do you plan to stay with the BJP?
Definitely, I am going to be with the BJP. I’ll be here and I will strengthen my party more. We will get more people involved into BJP and very soon you will see a huge cadre of BJP here. I am also vice president of Mahila Morcha for J&K so I will be working for women’s empowerment.
Do you think BJP will be part of the next government?
The Muftis, they want to be in power. The Abdullahs, they want to be in power. Whatever their ideology, they will have to join forces with BJP because they themselves also know it is better for the development of Jammu & Kashmir. According to my calculation, I think we will be more comfortable with NC and others. So let us wait and watch who goes where and what side—whether we go for PDP or we are more comfortable with NC. Things will be really clear in a few more hours or a day.
Jammu has voted for BJP but the Kashmir Valley has not. Are you concerned about religious polarisation?
It was not because of religion. BJP has been contesting in Jammu for a pretty long time now. We have a ground there. In Jammu, we have gained a lot. For a flight to takeoff, you need a runway. We had aeroplane with boosters but not a runway in Kashmir. The PDP took advantage of the anti-incumbency against NC. Here there was an anti-BJP campaign. Announcements were made in mosques that if people vote for the BJP, they will not be allowed to offer prayers. In such a short time, we could not cope up with all those problems. But very soon, in the next elections, you will see that we will get maximum number of seats for the BJP in the Valley.