Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Kashmir Elections: Is a Hindu-Muslim Alliance Now in the Offing?

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Kashmir Elections: Is a Hindu-Muslim Alliance Now in the Offing?

Article excerpt

The party of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has made significant electoral gains in the troubled region of Jammu and Kashmir, underscoring the Indian leader's desire to seek closer integration of the troubled Himalayan region with the rest of the country.

In results announced today, the Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won 25 of 87 seats in Kashmir, its best showing ever in the Muslim-majority state. But the figure is far short of the 44 seats needed to form a new government. And the BJP failed to win any seats in the strategic Kashmir valley, raising concerns that political affairs and relations inside the state could become seriously polarized, at least initially.

The BJP had campaigned aggressively in Kashmir, which is claimed by both India and Pakistan and has been a source of two wars and continuous border tension. Mr. Modi himself held a series of rallies in the state at which he promised jobs, economic development and justice, while his party ran an extensive media campaign, despite being ideologically at odds with most voters.

The biggest winner from the elections, which were phased over several weeks, is the People's Democratic Party (PDP). The young party, led by a seasoned, elder political figure, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, took 28 seats, just ahead of the BJP. Since no party can form a government on its own, the PDP is in a prime position to be part of a ruling coalition.

In some ways, analysts say, the results are unsettling for voters seeking political stability and strong government. Some 65 percent of nearly 5 million voters cast ballots, considered a healthy turnout.

Both the BJP and the PDP say they are ready to discuss a coalition government, which would represent a new track for Kashmir. "The option of forming the government, the option of supporting a government and the option of participating in a government are all open," BJP President Amit Shah told reporters in New Delhi.

For the PDP, an alliance with the national ruling party could bring greater financial assistance and development in a place where both are needed. …

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