Elections in Kashmir Set a Historic Precedent

In winter 2014, elections in Indian-held Kashmir should have been a benchmark for change. But the opposite occurred. The local government came to a standstill. And the Indian Army took control of the valley until the Governor stepped in.

The French historian Alexis de Tocqueville said, “When the past no longer illuminates the future, the spirit walks in darkness.” For decades, Kashmir looked as though it was forever plagued by curfews, closures and crackdown. The electoral process and outcome in winter 2014 offered a glimmer of hope.

Who Won?

The Muslim-dominated People’s Democratic Party (PDP) led by a woman, Mehbooba Mufti, won 28 seats. The Hindu-right (and Indian-favored) Bharatiya Janita Party (BJP) came in second place with 25 seats.

PDP won the elections for the first time in Kashmir's history.

PDP won the elections for the first time in Kashmir’s history.


On her victory, Mufti said:

“[the party] will not try to cobble up a government by manipulation. It will take time to build a formation which can fulfil the aspirations of people of Jammu and Kashmir”.

For the first time in Kashmir’s history, the rule of the National Congress Party led by the Abdullah family had come to an end. The National Congress Party had first won the assembly elections in 1965. Chief Minister Omar Abdullah was forced to resign on December 24, 2014.

As of February 1, 2015, the Governor continued to be in charge of Kashmir.

Picture of Mehbooba Mufti Copyright: Daily Kashmir Images

Picture of Mehbooba Mufti Copyright: Daily Kashmir Images

 The Democracy Debate

The question looms: Is democracy possible in Kashmir? Can a pro-Muslim and pro-Hindu party work together?  I wondered. 

Maybe. As of this writing, a coalition government has not been announced. The two leading parties, PDP and BJP, have yet to form a coalition government.

In the weeks ahead, Kashmiri political leaders will need to prove they can rule peacefully. Failing to do so will send the valley down a spiral of instability and insecurity.

And what role will India and Pakistan play in Kashmir’s nascent democracy? Both countries want a stable Kashmir.

Neither nuclear-armed rival can afford another war over the disputed valley. 

That’s the good news.

The bad news is that as a new government is being formed, militants battle security officials in India. On the Pakistan side of the border, militants dressed in army uniforms tried to cross into India. Sporadic instances of militant activity and violence will further weaken Kashmir as the new government attempts to strengthen the valley and tread the democratic path.  


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