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J&K Polls: It's Jammu Vs Kashmir

J-K has again handed out a fractured verdict with NC as the largest party, though its gains were primarily in the Valley. Amarnath blesses BJP I Small parties get smaller

, ET Bureau|
Dec 29, 2008, 09.18 AM IST
SRINAGAR: The gruelling 73-day, seven-phase poll exercise in Jammu and Kashmir threw up a hung verdict on Sunday, albeit not without surprises. Though the Congress��� main support base has shrunk, it has still emerged as the kingmaker in the state. The state would have another spell of coalition rule, and going by the nature of the verdict, the National Conference (NC) is set to form the next government with the help of the Congress. The BJP, which saw its tally increasing from one to 11, remains a pariah for the two main regional players, and hence was forced to sit in the opposition.

In the 87-member House (excluding two women being nominated), NC, with 28 seats, has re-emerged as the largest political party with PDP a distant second with 21 seats. The Congress has 17 and BJP 11, a net improvement of 10 seats���all in the Jammu region. Panthers Party, another emerging political force in the Jammu region, won three seats, CPM one while six others were taken by independents.

The Valley, which sends as many as 46 MLAs to the state Assembly, saw a toss-up between NC and PDP, with the Congress getting squeezed in the process. BJP, riding on popular sentiment generated by its backing of the Amarnath agitation, made impressive inroads in the Hindu-dominated Jammu region, bagging 11 of the 20 Hindu-majority seats.

If the Congress managed to put a halt to the rampaging BJP in this region, it was thanks largely to the efforts of former chief minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, who not only retained his Bhaderwah seat, but also helped the Congress cling onto its base in the Doda district.

Though NC had emerged the largest political party in 2002 as well, it had decided to sit in opposition. This time, Omar Abdullah and Farooq Abdullah are in the House, even though the party could barely touch the 28 seats won by it in 2002. In fact, the senior Abdullah won from both the Srinagar seats���Hazratbal and Sonawar.

This election witnessed 1,354 contestants for 87 seats of which 67 were women, the highest till now in J&K . The successful women candidates include PDP president Mehbooba Mufti and NC���s Shamima Firdous. The independents had a poor show this time and most of them lost security deposits.

One of the surprising aspects of the results is the success of candidates accused in Kashmir���s sensational sleaze racket. Barring Raman Matoo, who lost to NC in low-polled Habakadal, all others made it to the state Assembly.

These include Ghulam Ahmad Mir of the Congress and Hakim Mohammad Yasin (who runs the Peoples Democratic Front). Ghulam Hassan Mir, a PDP rebel who floated the Democratic Party Nationalist (DPN), also managed to get re-elected from north Kashmir���s Gulmarg. This time, there was a huge turnout in Kulgam with an avowed motive to vote out CPM leader Yousuf Tarigami, though he managed to get re-elected for the third consecutive term with a narrow margin.

Though almost every district voted on expected lines, Srinagar and Jammu made a difference. Srinagar district, with eight segments, was the least-polled belt, and all the seats went to NC. This gave PDP a crushing defeat and led to the loss of its lone urban face, Tariq Hameed Karra, who was all out in the field to challenge Mr Abdullah with his wife and sister-in-law as well.

BJP���s upsurge in the Jammu region resulted in the defeat of former deputy chief minister Mangat Ram Sharma, who lost out to the saffron party in Jammu (West).
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