The elections for the Jammu and Kashmir assembly are a watershed moment; for members on both sides of the Line Of Control. With the first phase of the poll over, the voter turnout stands at above 70%. For a province under heavy military occupation, various separatist movements, militancy, and a history of boycotted elections, this number represents a major change. But what conclusions can be drawn from the turnout? All contesting parties claim something different. Similarly, its implications for Pakistan-India relations are also mired in uncertainties.

Bharatiya Janta Party’s (BJP) landslide victory in the Lok Sabha has given it a strong base and heightened ambition.  From the offset it has been eyeing Kashmir, a place it never had any tangible presence in. The right wing Hindu nationalist party has never shied away from playing the communal card in its politics. Therefore, bagging Kashmir, a Muslim-majority state with a strong dislike of the Indian federation, and a focal point for the ever-divisive Indo-Pak conflict, would be a major symbolic victory for the BJP. It would cement its position in power and go a long way to convince apprehensive Indian-Muslims that Modi can be their leader; perhaps the only weak spot in his vote bank.

Capitulating on the soured relations between the Kashmiri people and incumbent People Democratic Party (PDP) after the floods, BJP has launched a consistent and concentrated election campaign. The over-zealous rhetoric and controversial decisions such as cancelling planned negotiations, perhaps the escalated cross border firing itself, were made with upcoming elections in mind. The Jammu and Kashmir Peoples Conference (JKPC) and the PDP put the cause of the increased voter turnout on this electoral push, with PDP patron, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, saying that this was the people's reaction to a polarising BJP campaign, by ignoring calls of boycott, the people realising the power of the electorate and taking steps to keep the BJP out. The BJP contend that it represents a successful election campaign, with people showing greater affinity towards the election procedure and therefore, the state, than the separatist movements.

While we will have to wait till December 23rd to find out which is true, a victory for the BJP could have important consequences. Its manifesto contains the pledge to abrogate section 370 of the Indian Constitution, which gives Kashmir special status among other states, and integrate it fully into India. While any mention of section 370 is missing from the election campaign, economic and infrastructural integration is a major part nonetheless. Hence, the BJP victory could make the resolution of the Kashmir issue a much more difficult process.