Jammu and Kashmir poll verdict could surprise all

December 27th, 2008 - 2:30 pm ICT by IANS  

Srinagar/Jammu, Dec 27 (IANS) With a 62 percent turnout, Jammu and Kashmir voters have already given democracy an absolute majority in the assembly polls this month and the last. But the verdict may be more fractured when it comes to any political party, feel observers, as everyone waits for the vote count Sunday.The regional National Conference patronised by former chief minister Farooq Abdullah and headed by his son Omar is hopeful of doing much better than in the 2002 elections when it got just 28 seats in the 87-member assembly.

“We shall hopefully surprise all pollsters. Our party has done better and we believe the people have returned us to power through these elections,” Altaf Ahmad, former minister and senior National Conference leader, told IANS in Srinagar.

“We have also most likely improved on our score in the Jammu region where we had just nine seats in the 2002 elections,” said Ahmad, who is the party’s candidate from north Kashmir’s Kangan constituency.

The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) headed by former chief minister Mufti Muhammad Sayeed, however, believes the large voter turnout in the Valley this time has gone in its favour.

“I am sure the voters came out to vote in such large numbers to keep the National Conference out of power,” said a senior PDP leader here.

The Congress party, which bagged five seats in the Valley in 2002, is hopeful of retaining its score in the region and maybe add to it.

“We have done well in our voting segments and we shall at least get five seats from the Valley again,” said a senior Congress leader.

As the National Conference, the PDP and the Congress engage in psychological battles before the results are declared Sunday, the Jammu region could spring a bagful of surprises.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which had bagged a lone seat in 2002, could surprise everybody by winning over 10 seats in the Jammu region this time. Its best so far has been eight seats in the 1996 elections.

“I am sure the party will not only bag a high number of seats this time but also play a major role in the formation of the next government in Jammu and Kashmir,” state BJP chief Ashok Khajuria told IANS.

“I had inherited my family’s culture of voting for the Congress, but this time I broke from that and voted for the BJP,” said Shashi Ahuja, a resident of Mastgarh in Jammu’s walled city.

The BJP became favourites in the Hindu majority areas of Jammu region after reports poured in that the PDP was winning in the Kashmir Valley and that both the Congress and the National Conference had been doing badly there.

“Jammu has to be saved from the onslaught of Kashmiri domination. The PDP president, Mehbooba Mufti’s statements against the people of Jammu, particularly Hindus, whom she called fanatics during the Amarnath land row has angered residents,” is the general refrain of people in Jammu. That could result in a resurgence of the BJP in the region.

The possibility of BJP gaining in a major way has already caused panic among the Congress cadres in Jammu.

“We are not on as strong a wicket as we had been earlier,” admitted Ravinder Sharma, Congress party spokesman, who had earlier predicted a clear majority for the party in the polls.

The silver lining for the National Conference and the Congress in Jammu is that its Muslim majority areas of Rajouri, Poonch, Doda and parts of Udhampur districts are likely to throw up a mixed bag with the two parties winning most of the seats.

All arrangements are in place for the counting of votes for various constituencies to be held at district headquarters from 9 a.m. Sunday.

The seven-phased assembly polls started Nov 17 and ended Dec 24.

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