J&K witnessed fractured mandate, killer floods in 2014

Srinagar: A political churning which saw BJP making significant gains in assembly elections and a natural disaster in the form of unprecedented floods marked the year 2014 for Jammu and Kashmir.

Srinagar: A political churning which saw BJP making significant gains in assembly elections and a natural disaster in the form of unprecedented floods marked the year 2014 for Jammu and Kashmir.

The elections to the 87-member state assembly, which were held in the aftermath of the floods which left nearly 300 people dead and thousands homeless, were widely watched as the electorate -- especially in Kashmir -- broke voter turnout records of over 27 years.

 However, a highly fractured mandate in which no political party was able to cross the 44-seat mark required to form the government, has been a dampener.  PDP emerged as the single largest party with 28 seats followed closely by BJP which recorded its best-ever showing in the state with victory in 25 seats.

However, BJP's quest for power in the state on its own came a cropper as it failed to open account in the valley and Ladakh region. All but one of the 34 candidates fielded by the party in the Valley lost their security deposits.

Ruling National Conference, which was almost written off before the assembly elections, won 15 seats. Congress, the coalition partner of the NC, was routed in Jammu by BJP but managed to put up a face saver by winning 12 seats.

2014 marked the end of the six-year tenure of Omar Abdullah as the chief minister of the state. Omar began his stint as the youngest chief minister of the state in January 2009, but ended it with becoming the first incumbent chief minister to lose an assembly election following his defeat to PDP green horn Mohammad Ashraf Mir from Sonawar Assembly segment.

The massive 66 per cent participation of people in the polls, last witnessed in 1987, was seen as a clear snub to the "boycott politics" propagated by separatist groups.  Despite attempts by militants to derail the election process, people turned up in good numbers to choose their representatives.

Militants carried out attacks on army camps in Arnia in Jammu (November 27) and Uri in Kashmir (December 5) but the voters refused to be cowed down. Even grenade attack in a busy Tral bus stand in Pulwama (December 5), that left three civilians dead and 10 others injured, failed to have an impact.

Several political workers were shot dead or attacked by militants during the five-phased polls in the state.

The floods, the worst in over a century, caused huge damage to public and private infrastructure as the state government pegged the losses in excess of Rs 44,000 crore.

The deluge, which struck large parts of the state in the first week of September, was caused by unprecedented rainfall resulting in several rivers and rivulets over-flowing their banks. According to official figures, 283 people died in the floods, which were declared the worst since 1902.

Kashmir valley was worst hit as more than 60 per cent of Srinagar city, the summer capital of the state, remained inundated for more than two weeks.

Nearly 3.50 lakh structures -- mostly residential houses -- were fully or partially damaged due to the floods. The rehabilitation of the flood victims has been slow and the pace further slackened as the state assembly elections were announced when people were still picking up threads of life.

The massive participation of people in the elections -- even Srinagar, the boycott hub, registered nearly 30 per cent turnout -- was attributed to desire for change and an expression of hope for speedy rehabilitation.

The fractured mandate has resulted in a stalemate as no party has come forward to form a government so far. Talks have been going on among various political parties for forging an alliance.
If no political party, or a combination of parties, stakes claim to form a government by January 19, the state might go under Governor's rule.

Contrary to the actual results, the election for six Lok Sabha seats in the state earlier in 2014 had indicated that National Conference and Congress would be routed in the assembly polls.

While BJP defeated Congress in Jammu, Udhampur and Ladakh Lok Sabha constituencies, PDP wrested all three seats in the valley from National Conference.

The Lok Sabha elections saw National Conference president Farooq Abdullah losing an election for the first time in 34 years. Such was the comprehensive nature of PDP's victory over National Conference that its candidates took lead in 39 of the 46 assembly segments in the valley. National Conference on the other hand had lead in only five segments, while two independents were ahead in one each of the remaining segments. BJP had taken lead in 27 assembly segments.

While BJP's tally came down slightly in the assembly polls, PDP's numbers scaled down by almost 32 per cent, coming down from 41 to 28 seats within a span of seven months. PDP had taken lead on two segments in Jammu region also during the Lok Sabha polls.

On the security front, 2014 was perceived to be "challenging" in view of the US announcement of troop pull-out from Afghanistan and two elections in the state but the number of security forces casualties decreased slightly.

While number of militants killed in counter-insurgency operations rose by 10 per cent to 110, number of security personnel killed dropped from 61 last year to 51 in 2014.

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