The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Ring of truth, not reflection

New Delhi, Oct. 10: The hung verdict thrown up by the elections in Jammu and Kashmir has the ring of credibility about it that past polls in the state cannot claim. Even so, for the troubled Valley, the elections in themselves do not reflect the political mood.

The ring of credibility comes from the drubbing the National Conference has been handed out. The party will be able to put together just about half the number of seats it had won in 1996.

Where the polls fail is in not being able to capture the wave of resentment sweeping over the Valley against the National Conference. In the Valley, the National Conference was perceived as the party that will rig elections, maim and torture youth, build a network of patronage and will associate with a Muslim-killing Narendra Modi. It is a wave that was propelled as much by localised grievances as by the potency of the azaadi slogan.

Had the elections reflected this mood, they would have been a washout for the National Conference. It now has the dubious honour of being the single largest party.

The evidence that there was indeed such a wave is strong. National Conference “chief patron” Farooq Abdullah has said his party was demoralised by the spate of killings — of his partymen — that took a toll on the organisation, rendering it too weak to mount a vigorous enough campaign.

What Abdullah does not go into is that even so many killings failed to generate a sympathy wave, except probably in Lolab, where the candidate was killed. In the run-up to the polls, the threat from militancy was most visible in the simultaneous attacks on National Conference minister and candidate, the frail Sakina Itoo. She lost in her Noorabad constituency.

But the most visible symbol of the wave is the manner in which the Abdullahs have been worsted: mascot Omar Abdullah in Ganderbal and Farooq’s brother Mustafa Kamal in Gulmarg.

More evidence of the wave is the way in which even the scared voter was determined to see the Abdullahs out. The National Conference has a better party organisation than any other political formation in Jammu and Kashmir can claim. In the 46 constituencies of the Valley, where fear was paramount, the low turnout was seen as favouring the National Conference whose cadre would show up with committed voters. The results show even that has not worked for the party.

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