The last time Prime Minister Narendra Modi was seen addressing a public rally in Kashmir he was wearing a Pheran (a traditional cloak). That was done to woo the Muslim majority voter share of Kashmir to believe in the idea of BJP and its governance. Come December 23rd and BJP wins 25 seats in the Hindu-dominated areas of Jammu, becoming the second largest party in the state. This is definitely a big achievement for a party, which a decade ago had just one seat in the whole state. But this victory is shadowing a loss for BJP in the Kashmir region.
The real challenge for the BJP before the elections was its 'Mission 44'. However, they just managed to win 25 seats. It also failed to open its account in Kashmir and Ladakh. Its influence weakened a bit in Jammu, where it won all its seats but lost 12 out of the 37 seats in the region.
BJP currently has the largest vote share compared to any other party in the state, its 23% is marginally over the PDP's 22.7%, the NC's 20.8% and the Congress's share of 18%. This definitely suggests that the saffron party has done considerably well in the state, even if all of its captured seats are in the Jammu region. However, the more startling reality, which BJP had never anticipated, is that the party not only didn't open their account in Ladakh and Kashmir region but also couldn't even manage to acquire a certain amount of voter share which could be termed decent. Its voter share in the Valley remains at a dismal 2.2% despite all the hype and media attention. The party didn't win single seat in the region.
Modi adopted many new tactics to impress voters in the Valley before the elections. He didn't say a word about Article 370, which still remains the much talked about issue in Kashmir. The party's performance in the region was dependent on a large chunk of migrant voters mostly comprising of Kashmiri Pandits, but Modi didn't utter a word about their return to the Valley. Nor did he sign-off his speech with Vande Mataram. But none of this helped his party in the Valley.
The party's voter share in Kashmir is just 2.2% despite all the hype surrounding its efforts. Adding to the woes of BJP, the saffron party has drawn a blank in terms of any seats in Ladakh region, represented in the recent Lok Sabha by their own MP. Just like the Valley, even the vote share in Ladakh for BJP has remained dull, getting barely 22.1% compared to over 50% for the Congress party.
Going back to the Valley, where BJP's face Hina Bhat lost in the high-profile Amira Kadal constituency. Bhatt, 37, mostly known for her string of controversial statements during the election campaign, lost to Altaf Bukhari of the People's Democratic Party. In November, Bhatt said she would be the "first to pick up a gun" if Article 370 of the Constitution, which gives special status to Jammu and Kashmir, were to be scrapped. Her party, the BJP, has always called for abrogation of the article but critics say it has softened its stance because of political expediency in the region.
Surprisingly, Hina Bhat managed to get only 1,359 votes. The constituency she fought in has a large chunk of Kashmiri Pandit voters and by the looks of her performance, even the KP's haven't voted for her in large numbers. BJP's other candidate, Neelam Gash in Zadibal segment got just 360 votes. The numbers themselves show how much BJP was taken seriously as a party in these two main constituencies.
BJP's other important candidates in the Valley also didn't do much good to the voter share. Masood-ul-Hassan, fighting from Hazratbal constituency, was the best performer for the BJP in Srinagar as he got 2,635 votes but that was not enough for a win. He was followed by Zubair Ahmad Wani from Batmaloo with 1,304 votes as the second best performer for BJP in the valley.
Political commentators feel that the aggressive BJP campaign had caused a certain reverse polarisation that resulted in the high voting percentages that ended up helping tow regional parties, PDP and NC respectively. The reason can be adjusted to Kashmir region only. For Jammu also, the numbers show something else. The BJP's rout in north of Jammu, where other parties clinched majority of the seats, means the party still can't win where Muslims decide the outcome. It still can't convince minority communities to vote for them, which, as it stands, happened in Ladakh and Kashmir regions also.
BJP's vote share in the state has fallen from nearly 31% in the Lok Sabha elections to around 23%. Now that the BJP has failed to make great impression in Kashmir, the party can, of course, ignore all these details and look at the bigger picture of forming a government in the state. But the victory that BJP had anticipated in Kashmir just didn't happen.
Even if BJP will be forming the next government in Kashmir under a coalition, the harsh truth still remains that Modi and his party, in spite of his best efforts and several ideological compromises, failed miserably in Kashmir.