The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) said on Thursday it had the “veto power” in the disputed state. However, the results of the elections to the Jammu & Kashmir assembly, declared on Dec 23, marked the defeat of the BJP’s ‘44 plus’ campaign to secure a majority in the 87-member assembly. The party swept Jammu in last May’s elections to the Lok Sabha. With 37 seats from Jammu and four from Ladakh all it had to do was to win a few more in the Valley and form a government. Instead, it secured 25 seats. A fractured verdict yields a hung legislature. Who would the People Democratic Party (28) accept as its partner? The Congress (12) would make the 40-member coalition dependent on the independents so a coalition with the BJP will be likely.

The PDP won 28 seats of which three came from the Muslim-majority areas of Jammu. The Congress won 12 seats and in Jammu its candidates won only in five Muslim-dominated areas. The National Conference won 15 seats; 11 from the Valley and four from Jammu. This religious polarisation has been fostered by the Sangh Parivar and is now complete. The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) demanded trifurcation of the area on religious lines but without realising this would yield it only two and a half of Jammu’s former six districts. Omar Abdullah has swallowed his pride and wants to makeup with the PDP and has also made offers to the BJP.

What do the results mean for the future? The accession to India was not the issue, here the people voted only for better governance even though they know they are alienated from Delhi. The problem is that though BJP did not get a majority, it got a sizeable chunk. A PDP-Congress coalition will exclude Jammu and a BJP-NC regime will marginalise the Valley. Yet the people of Jammu & Kashmir are convinced that they have a say, despite the BJP’s political muscle. That is much more than their counterparts in Azad Jammu and Kashmir can say, even if we believe their belief in the Indian process to be mistaken. Regardless of whether the people had drawn a clear distinction between secession and the purpose of the polls (good governance), they feel empowered to make themselves heard. This is faith in the Indian Union. Key losers from this are the Hurriyat, who have voluntarily ceded their voice over the development debate. The other loser is Pakistan. The world has seen that Kashmiris have free and fair elections. What does Pakistan have to offer?