The Bharatiya Janata Party did extremely well in the mountainous states of North India — Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Jammu and Kashmir — by winning 12 out of the total 15 Lok Sabha seats in the region. Eleven of these 12 seats had a direct contest with the Congress. The BJP failed to open its account only in the Kashmir Valley. The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) won all the three seats in the Valley, defeating the National Conference, an ally of the Congress party.

Preference for prime ministerial candidate

It is for the first time in Himachal Pradesh that the ruling party in the State did not win a single Lok Sabha seat. The Congress could not manage to even retain the only Lok Sabha seat it had won in 2009. Uttarakhand also witnessed a clean sweep by the BJP. The Congress’s belated move to replace its underperforming Chief Minister Vijay Bahugana with Harish Rawat did not pay any dividends for the party, as it lost all the five seats it had won in 2009 to the BJP. The BJP also seems to have benefitted from the fact that three former Chief Ministers from the party were in the fray. But more than local factors, what seems to have worked most in BJP’s favour was strong support for Narendra Modi. This is true for both Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh. The CSDS-Lokniti post-poll survey shows that more than half the respondents in both States preferred Mr. Modi as Prime Minister. In fact, according to our survey, in no other State in the country did Mr. Modi’s popularity cross the 50 percent mark. Further, when voters in both States were asked what mattered to them most while voting — the prime ministerial candidate, state-level leadership, or the local candidate, most voters said it was the prime ministerial candidate who influenced their voting choice.

In Jammu and Kashmir, the results of the Lok Sabha election came as a shock for the ruling National Conference-Congress alliance, with its opponents, the PDP and the BJP, sharing the State’s six seats. While the PDP won three seats in the valley with one-fifth of the total vote in the State, the BJP won both the seats in Jammu, and the Ladakh seat, securing nearly one-third of the total votes. The NC took a bigger beating than its alliance partner: its vote declined by eight percentage points while the Congress’ declined by two percentage points.

Reasons for victory

The survey indicates different reasons for the victories of the PDP and the BJP. The PDP seems to have benefitted from the high dissatisfaction with Omar Abdullah’s government in the Kashmir Valley. Over half the respondents in the Valley felt that the condition in Jammu and Kashmir in the last five years had not improved. Moreover, 40 per cent of the respondents in the Valley rated the previous PDP-Congress government as being better than the present NC-Congress government. Only 18 per cent opted for the latter. As far as the BJP’s wins are concerned, particularly in Jammu, it was not just unhappiness with the State government, but also Mr. Modi’s high popularity in the region that seems to have given it the advantage. As opposed to just four per cent of the respondents in the valley wanting Mr. Modi as Prime Minister, the figure in Jammu was nearly nine times higher at 35 per cent. With Assembly elections scheduled in Jammu and Kashmir for later this year, there seems to be very little time for recovery for both the Congress and the National Conference.

(Vibha Attri is with Lokniti, Centre for the Study of Developing Societies.)

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