Kashmir is still recovering from the devastation of the recent floods; the State and Central governments are still involved in relief and rehabilitation operations. But extraordinary as these circumstances are in the Valley, deferring the Assembly election in Jammu and Kashmir was never an option before the Election Commission. Any postponement of the election process would only have added a political dimension to the administrative crisis in the State, stretching further the already strained capabilities of the National Conference government. Chief Minister Omar Abdullah appeared to have been motivated by the rationale of his own political survival when he mooted the deferring of the election in order to better deal with the flood crisis.
In view of security considerations — militancy in Kashmir and Maoism in Jharkhand — the polls are spread over five phases beginning November 25 and ending on December 20. As in the Lok Sabha election, in J&K, the People’s Democratic Party is expected to eat into the vote share of the National Conference, and the Bharatiya Janata Party may again raid the Congress strongholds. The break-up of the NC-Congress alliance is of little consequence, and the interest in the election is whether the Congress would win enough seats to remain a player for power in the post-election scenario. The PDP and the Congress have been partners in government before, and in the event of a fractured mandate in J&K, another political churning is quite likely.
In Jharkhand, the question is whether the BJP will be able to repeat its performance in the Lok Sabha election and get a majority of its own. After having won 12 of the 14 Lok Sabha seats, the BJP is the overwhelming favourite. Although the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha is at present in alliance with the Congress and the Rashtriya Janata Dal, the three parties might go their separate ways in the Assembly election. Differences over seat sharing aside, the parties are by no means natural allies. Jharkhand has seen several combinations of parties in power, and the JMM, especially, has shown a readiness to make friends with any party for the sake of sharing power.
The Congress and the RJD have stakes in Bihar too, but the national party might see little merit in playing the role of a junior partner in a JMM-led coalition in a low-stakes election. For the BJP, it is important to keep up the winning momentum. Under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the BJP is now a centralised organisation. Just as he and his core team take credit for every success, they will be conscious that the blame for a defeat too will lie on them alone. But that seems to be a situation very much to the liking of Mr. Modi who is not averse to risk-taking.