Srinagar: The Hindu right wing Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) is trying hard to woo the Shia voters in Kashmir ahead of parliamentary and the incoming assembly polls so as to make effective inroads into the power corridors of Kashmir.
The BJP has been eyeing on the Shia voters from past one decade, firmly believing that it will open doors of political opportunities for them in Kashmir.
For that reason, the BJP office bearers are reported to have collected an in-house survey pertaining to the various religious and ethnic sects in Kashmir valley back in the year of 2011.
According to the data compiled in the survey, the Shia voters comprise approximately 14 percent vote in the erstwhile Kashmir division which included Ladakh as well.
Apart from constituencies, the survey has carried out profile of Shia population on district and village levels so that it can effectively engage with community voters for political gains.
The party bearers had been giving survey copies to the Shia political and religious leaders, affiliated with BJP, so that they remain informed and focused on the voters.
Since 2011, the party has been contacting the Shia religious leaders and trying to cobble alliances with their political parties, which it believes will help the party represent Kashmir in the local assembly and the parliament as well.
Why Shia vote matters?
According to the BJP insiders, the Shia vote matters since the community votes even if there is low low voter turn-out, especially during the parliamentary polls.
“This is clear that majority of the Shia community votes,” state BJP leader and in charge of the grievance cell, Dr Rafi said.
“So there is no impact of the poll boycott or low voter turn on the Shia votes. Their voting share in Kashmir and ladakh is competitive as well. And, we are working hard to garner those votes by roping in the leaders from the community”.
He said that BJP has also cobbled alliances with the socio-religious-political parties having Shia leaders.
“We have also a large number of workers and leaders from Budgam, Zadibal, Hawal, Pattan, and other Shia dominated areas who have joined us,” Dr Rafi said.
“Agha Syed Mohsin of Budgam and son of Ex-legislator Muzaffar Safvi of Hawal have joined us already. We have alliances with Peoples Conference led by Sajad Lone. The PC has members of politically influential Ansari members as well who also belong to the Shia community”.
He said that BJP has strong belief that if it is able to utilize even 10 percent of the Shia votes, it will be enter into the Kashmir politics.
“Even one vote matters to us,” Dr Rafi said.
“Like in Srinagar- the summer capital of J&K- which often registers low voter turnout for assembly polls, not to speak for the parliament, gaining Shia votes can prove to be decisive in electing the party to the corridors of power. We will like to be in the assembly and the parliament to represent Kashmir”.
Another senior BJP leader, Yousuf Sofi, said Shias have kept the democracy alive in Kashmir- a reason why the party is exclusively focusing on them.
“They never had even a thought of disintegrating the country,” Sofi said.
“They are the true patriots. We are proud of them”.
He said that that National Conference, Peoples Democratic Party and Congress have always exploited Shia community for electoral politics and done nothing for them.
“But the community is not with them now. All of the big faces of the Shia community are with us. Our leader Engineer Aijaz Hussain, who hails from Pattan is also one among the members from the community”.
“Lot of Shia community leaders and religious leaders have joined us. We have reciprocated by helping them. We will help them in the development of their community”.
“If democracy is alive in Kashmir, it is because of them. We know if there is low voter turnout, Shia’s will vote as they have done earlier”.
Promises are raining
For voting BJP and its alliance parties, the BJP is pledging that in return it will take number of welfare measures for the community.
It includes reservations for Shia Muslims in the state, demarcating constituencies, allowing Muharram processions, and the creation of a Shia Waqf board, along with a separate Haj Quota, particularly in Kashmir.
In this regard, the BJP General Secretary Ram Madhav held a meeting with the local party leadership and hammer out ideas to to woo the Shia voters.
Talking to the media later, the National vice president of BJP’s youth wing, Engineer Aijaz Hussain said the party believes Shia’s should be given reservation since they have been neglected for a quite long time.
“We also propose that Pattan area, with considerable Shia population, should be given a separate constituency status”
The party said it will also work to get separate Waqf board for Shia besides will also keep reservation for the community in the Haj quota.
Hussain termed the Shia’s as the “backbone of democracy” in Kashmir.
“They have been neglected and used by other political parties for political gains. If the BJP uplifts them, they are sure to reciprocate with votes,” he said.