SRINAGAR : All the traditional political combinations and permutations went for a toss in Jammu and Kashmir after the former senior Congress leader, Ghulam Nabi Azad decided to throw his hat into the electoral ring here.
After standing steadfast with the Congress for 52 long years, Azad has become the most serious challenge faced by the party in J&K.
Already many senior leaders of the Congress have resigned to join Azad who is likely to announce a new political party this week on his arrival in Jammu.
The turbulence that has hit the Congress is likely to upset the political equations of the National Conference (NC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) if not in the Valley, but definitely in the Jammu division.
The Muslim vote becomes a decisive factor in the Chenab Valley districts of Doda, Kishtwar and Ramban.
Azad has personal influence and goodwill in Poonch, Rajouri, Jammu, Kathua, Samba, Udhampur and Reasi districts as well.
This personal goodwill might not necessarily translate into the number of assembly seats his party wins in these 7 districts but it could decide who loses the elections in those districts.
The BJP is well entrenched in Jammu, Kathua, Samba, Udhampur and Reasi where its arch rival till yesterday, the Congress, will now have to dig in its feet to register some electoral victories.
Interestingly, the Congress in the Jammu division is likely to face an electoral challenge from the hitherto unknown Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) that has gradually spread its influence to Jammu, Samba and Kathua after its victory in the neighbouring Punjab.
So far as the impact of the AAP on the ground level support of the BJP in these districts is concerned, it is unlikely that the BJP will concede seats to the AAP.
This clearly indicates that the loss of the Congress could well be the gain of either the BJP or the AAP.
Even in these seats, Azad can upset traditional equations because of his support, though limited, among both the Hindu and the Muslim voters.
In the districts of Doda, Kishtwar and Ramban, Azad’s entry into the electoral fray is likely to become an elephant in a china shop.
He is likely to win seats in these three districts. How many seats would his party win can be debated, but how many will the NC and the PDP lose in these districts because of Azad’s presence must worry the two otherwise Valley-centric regional parties.
In Poonch and Rajouri districts, the NC has been winning at least 5 to 6 seats in the past. Once the Muslim vote gets divided between the NC and Azad, the BJP would stand to gain in these two districts.
The Peoples Conference (PC) headed by Sajad Gani Lone and the Apni Party headed by Syed Altaf Bukhari are likely to win around half a dozen or more seats in assembly constituencies in the Valley.
These 2 parties are still to establish themselves firmly in the Jammu division.
In a nutshell, Azad could well be an elephant in the political china shop of the Congress, NC and the PDP especially in the Jammu division that has 43 seats in the 90-member UT assembly. — IANS