Chief minister Omar Abdullah may have scored a triumph by forging an alliance with the Congress despite the reservations of its state leadership, but his worries are far from over. A resurgent Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Jammu and a rejuvenated People's Democratic Party (PDP) in Kashmir is all set to spoil Omar's party.
Amid separatists' call for a poll boycott, the ruling National Conference (NC) party appears to be on a sticky wicket in the restive state. The killing of 120 youth in the 2010 agitation, the government's inability to check corruption and corrupt ministers and to withdraw the controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) have been the hallmark of the Omar government's five-year rule in Jammu and Kashmir. Besides, Omar's father, Farooq Abdullah, recently drew sharp criticism for allegedly calling Kashmiris "thieves".
Before that, the Rs 25,000 crore Roshni land scam had added to Omar government's troubles.
As the 2014 general election approaches, his rule continues to remain unpopular. In the 2009 general election, the NC had won three of the six Lok Sabha seats in the state. An NC rebel leader returned to the party fold after winning as an independent from Ladakh while alliance partner Congress won two seats in Jammu, completing the whitewash.
But plenty has changed in the last five years. The PDP and the BJP are making strong comebacks, cashing in on the follies of the ruling alliance.
"Of course there will be a battle. It will be between the arrogance of power that has blinded the NC and the humility, a political vision and road map for development which the PDP represents," said Muzaffar Hussain Baig, former deputy chief minister and PDP candidate for the Baramulla seat.
The NC is repeating its three MPs from the Kashmir valley, with party president Farooq contesting the Srinagar seat. The party will face a formidable opposition in the valley with PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti contesting from Anantnag and Muzaffar Hussain Baig from Baramulla. The NC is aware of the uphill task even if it alludes to it half-heartedly.
"The challenge is enormous, as several agencies have pooled their resources to weaken the secular edifice by generating animosity and creating a wedge between different segments of the populace," said NC provincial president Devender Singh Rana.
In Jammu, the battlelines are between the Congress and the BJP, whose confidence is apparent from the deicsion to field new players; party spokesman Jatinder Singh will contest Udhampur while state BJP president Jugal Kishore will contest the Jammu seat.
"The people here feel frustrated and cheated with the present political system. They want change, and they see a ray of hope in the BJP," said said Vibodh Gupta, BJP's state vice-president.
With not much ammunition in its armour, the Congress is trying to revive the ghost of Gujarat to target the BJP. "Handing over the country to the extremists will neither be a fruitful decision nor in the interest of the country. India's existence as well as future integration is exclusively dependent on secular ideology," said Abdul Gani Vakil, Congress' state vice-president.
The bickering between the political parties comes in the wake of a call by separatists and militants to boycott the election. Leading the charge is the Hurriyat's Syed Ali Shah Geelani, who has asked people to boycott elections to show that they want "nothing but azadi" from Indian rule.