Notwithstanding its numerical deficit in the election for eight seats of the Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Council, the faction-riddled Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) holds the key to a crucial contest in the election slated to be held on March 7.

Shiban Krishen Dudha, who unsuccessfully contested the Assembly elections of 2008 from Amirakadal segment of Srinagar, is now contesting from the Valley as an independent, but his nomination has been proposed by 10 Opposition MLAs — all from Mehbooba Mufti’s People’s Democratic Party (PDP).

Eight seats — four each from Kashmir and Jammu — had fallen vacant in the Legislativc Council. While three contestants in the Jammu division, one each from National Conference (NC), Congress and PDP, have won uncontested, members of the 89-member J&K Legislative Assembly only the election for the seat reserved for Doda district will be held on March 7. On the same day, the members of the Lower House would elect four out of the five contestants from Kashmir.

The NC-Congress coalition, which comprises of 45 members and enjoys the support of four to six ‘associate members’, has divided the eight seats in 4:4 ratio and conceded one each to the PDP — one in Kashmir, another in Jammu. A crucial contest is emerging on one seat between the NC candidate and Mr. Dudha.

PDP spokesperson Naeem Akhtar confirmed to The Hindu that all the 10 MLAs who proposed Mr Dudha’s nomination were from the PDP. “But, let it be clear enough that he is not our candidate. He just assured us that both factions of the BJP, the Panthers Party and some independent MLAs would vote for him. If that happens, he is sure to defeat one of the two NC candidates,” Mr Akhtar said. He however made it clear that the PDP would not lobby with the BJP for Mr. Dudha.

In addition to enjoying the PDP’s support of the PDP, which could reserve 18 of its votes for Mr. Akhtar and spare three for its proxy, Mr. Dudha has certain advantages. He is a Kashmiri Pandit.

“It would be very difficult for the BJP [11 MLAs] and the NPP [3] to let down Mr. Dudha,” a senior PDP leader said. According to him, Mr. Dudha would certainly get two more votes — one from his political patron Hakeem Mohammad Yasin and another from the Jammu State Morcha’s Ashwani Kumar. Though there is a big ‘if,’ but Mr. Dudha appears to have the potential and prospects of embarrassing the coalition by defeating one of the NC’s candidates.

Much, however, depends on the BJP. It is split between the two factions. Its official group has four MLAs and the dissident group has seven. Even as the seven dissident MLAs have been staying away after the infamous cross-voting of 2011, they are bound by the anti-defection law to vote according to the party’s whip.

  • They may throw their weight behind Shiban Dudha, an independent

  • PDP however makes it clear they would not lobby with BJP for Mr. Dudha