Srinagar: Jammu and Kashmir, India’s only Muslim-majority state, has delivered a split verdict in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has retained the three parliamentary constituencies (PCs) — Jammu, Udhampur and Ladakh — which it won in 2014. The National Conference (NC) has replaced the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the other three PCs — Srinagar, Anantnag and Baramulla.
These headline numbers, however, don’t fully explain the growing polarisation between the Kashmir valley and other parts of the state.
The BJP’s vote share in the three Muslim-majority PCs, all of which it lost, is 3% compared to about 60% in the three seats it won. If one were to exclude assembly constituencies (ACs) in Muslim-majority districts (on the basis of 2011 census data) in the Jammu and Udhampur PCs, the BJP’s vote share in these two PCs climbs to 76%.
To be sure, the religious polarisation in the BJP’s support base is not surprising.
However, what is remarkable is that the BJP’s growth in the Jammu region has come at the cost of other parties such as the NC, the PDP, the Congress as well as the National Panthers Party.
The combined vote share of these four parties in the ACs located in Hindu-majority districts of Jammu had never been less than 30% in assembly and Lok Sabha elections between 1996 and 2014. This number came down to 19% in the 2019 elections.
The Ladakh PC has shown an interesting pattern. Here, these parties record a significantly lower vote share in Lok Sabha elections, but recover ground during assembly elections.
Even the BJP’s victories in Ladakh in 2014 and 2019 have been with much smaller margins than in the two PCs in the Jammu region.