– Twists and Turns
Jammu and Kashmir is a unique Dasterkhan (cloth used for a big feasty meal). As always, this time too the famed Political Wazwan served on it threw up varied flavours during elections.
Take Hina Bhat, a Muslim woman to contest on a BJP ticket in Kashmir valley, whose interviews in national newspapers and magazines, measured in column centimetres, and primetime television appearances, measured in minutes, far exceeded the total number of votes she polled. The brave lady batted her long eyelashes and used her lashing tongue, threatening to pick up a gun if Article 370, that gives special status to Jammu and Kashmir in Indian Constitution, was scrapped. Her party (BJP) scowled, and she changed her firing gun and insisted she actually meant a ‘political gun’ and went on campaigning minus security, persisting that by joining BJP in Kashmir, she should be considered truly brave by all standards. Well, for her bravery probably meant whacking the cheek of a hapless Presiding Officer at a Polling Station, who was seen clutching his reddened cheeks with tell tale marks of the lady’s fingers! It was a different matter that her political gun appeared rusted firing a mere 1,359 bullets, as against PDP winner Altaf Bukhari’s 11,726.
Kalakote, of Rajouri District in Jammu, threw up a surprise with BJP clinching the assembly seat where Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs unitedly voted for BJP. Breaking line from popular trends, BJP narrowed down on Abdul Gani Kohli, a Gujjar, who pipped two-timer NC MLA, Rashpal Singh-a Hindu. Kohli was handpicked for his welfare streak for downtrodden, and especially for his engineering projects of water supply for Vaishno Devi Shrine. As member of Muslim Coordination Committee and loved by Gujjars and Bakkarwals alike, it was a tough fight and Kohli polled 6,178 votes more than Singh, as his 32 year career as civil engineer stood him in good stead.
While anchors on Headlines Today and many other news channels screeched Omar Abdullah’s political obituary as loser in both Sonawar and Beerwah constituencies, a last minute electronic manna from the heaven saw him emerge victorious by margin of a mere 910 votes in Beerwah. Omar gleefully tweeted “Thank you to all of you gloating over my premature defeat in Beerwah, it’s made the victory even sweeter.” Also he promptly changed his profile photo from plough to his smiling face. It was a rare picture as Omar rarely smiles, only bobs his head on one side and keeps a straight English nose. He went on to tweet “Photo changed because the party logo was only being used till the elections & my bio will change once I’ve called on the Governor tomorrow.” Someone promptly replied, “Yup ! Exams Over ! Ho gaya mera Happy Birday!”
Call him a ‘dark horse’ or a ‘greenhorn’, Sajjad Lone, a separatist turned politician, married to Pakistani Asma Khan, daughter of Amanullah Khan, founder of Jammu &Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), won from Handwara-the transit route of infiltrators and militants sneaking into Kashmir. And his party, the People’s Conference, also held aloft the flag in Kupwara, another militant hotbed. What went for his electoral advantage was Lone’s much publicised ‘lone’ meeting with PM Narendra Modi. Collars-up, Lone went calling Modi his ‘elder brother’ and promised to flush his constituency with moolah from the Centre. It’s another matter that Lone’s elder brother Bilal is an executive member of Hurriyat Conference and his sister Shabnam had virtually disowned him on national television news channels till he finally emerged victorious.
Apple town Sopore chose its own apple-Abdul Rashid Dar of Indian National Congress, who trounced both regional party candidates PDP’s Nazir Ahmed Naikoo and NC’s Mohammed Ashraf Ganie. The apple town was once firmly in the basket of separatist leader and boycott-calendar-architect, Syed Ali Geelani. Geelani had won thrice in 1972, 1977 and 1987 from the same constituency. His boycott call lost its thunder this time, but of course there is always a first time and many more follow the first.
Some say the best way to cobble up the numbers for ruling government would be PDP-BJP combo, with Jawahar tunnel being political and governance boundary line. Intermediaries could always be clubbed later for contentious issues. Of course the King will continue to willfully enjoy the scorching summers in the cool locales of the Valley and winters in warmer Jammu, always ensuring a cool head on his shoulders. But turning a swift spoilesport, reports emerging say that former CM Omar is willing to take a backseat with a tie up with BJP, letting the saffron party in J&K to finally call the vital ..clauses ..Oops Shots !
Interestingly, there are no ‘Paki-Imran Khans’ calling the elections a bogey, sham or rigged. All political parties in the fray are clearcut in their praise of an election that mirrors the true numbers and was transparent to the smallest pebble. Jammu and Kashmir, much like its famed Wazwan, may have many greedy hands itching to gobble up the entire Goshtaba but that’s owing to its aura and aroma which few States can match.
FIRST PUBLISHED IN RISING KASHMIR ON DECEMBER 29,2014