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Indian PM Modi's BJP crushed in Kashmir elections despite being the only party contesting polls Open in fullscreen

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Indian PM Modi's BJP crushed in Kashmir elections despite being the only party contesting polls

The state election office said there was a 98 percent turnout. [Getty]

Date of publication: 25 October, 2019

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All the other political parties, including the Indian National Congress, boycotted the polls in protest of the removal of the state's autonomous status.
Indian Kashmir this week held its first local elections since the revocation of its semi-autonomous status, in which Prime Minister Narendra Modi's right-wing BJP were dealt a devastating defeat.

The only party not to have boycotted the elections, the BJP was up against independents with little or no influence. But in a major shock to the party, the independents soundly defeated the BJP, Indian outlet The Wire reported. 

Other local and national parties including the main national opposition the Indian National Congress had boycotted the elections, citing the lockdown of the region and the abrupt, unconstitutional revocation of its semi-autonomous status.  

The independent candidates defeated in 271 of the 307 seats. There was a massive 98 percent voter turnout, according to the state election office. 

Also read: The only way we can resist: Cricket, politics and identity in Kashmir

The polls clearly show the rejection of the central government's policies in the north, who have been touting their success in "integrating" Kashmir into the Indian Union and giving non-Kashmiris the permission to by land and work in the region for the first time.

'Disbelief' among senior leaders

The election result has left senior BJP leaders in 'disbelief', a senior party member told Indian news outlet The Wire.

The state of Jammu and Kashmir was split into two following the removal of its autonomous status, turning the two regions into Union Territories that are ruled and governed by the central Indian government.

The party performed poorly even in its southern stronghold of Jammu and in the new Union Territory of Ladakh, with independents defeating the BJP in both regions.

This was the first time in the electoral history of Jammu and Kashmir that all the regional parties are not competing in an election.

New Delhi stripped Kashmir of its flag and its constitution on 5 August this year, curtailing the movement of Kashmiris and enforcing a debilitating state-wide communication blackout.

Anticipating a backlash, the government completely shut down the state, arresting politicians, lawyers, businessmen and separatists.

Three former chief ministers – Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti – were among the dozens of politicians either detained or put under house arrest. The 81-year-old Farooq Abdullah has been detained under the draconian Public Safety Act (PSA) that allows detention for up to two years without trial.

Some politicians are being freed once they sign a gag order to refrain from criticising the government's decision in Kashmir. 

These results alongside those in the western state of Maharashtra and the northern state of Haryana have seen opposition parties gain more ground than expecting, proving that the right-wing BJP's stranglehold on Indian politics is not complete.

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