Jammu: After capturing power in New Delhi and claiming three of the six Lok Sabha seats from Jammu and Kashmir, the Bharatiya Janata Party is hoping to replicate this in the assembly elections later this year by targetting 44-plus seats – or a majority – in the 87-member house, up from its current tally of 11.
“Plan +44 is the name given to the BJP campaign to get power in the state assembly. We will definitely get many more seats during the assembly elections,” said a senior BJP leader in winter capital Jammu.
This in a situation in which the ruling coalition of the regional National Conference (NC) and the Congress is unlikely to fight the assembly elections in alliance.
Insiders in both the NC and the Congress reveal the senior leaders of the two parties are already blaming each other for the Lok Sabha poll debacle in which neither party won any seat.
The widening chasm between the two parties became clear on Tuesday when NC and Congress ministers called separate press conferences to claim credit for hiking the retirement age of government employees to 60 years from the existing 58.
The NC has 28, the PDP 21, the Congress 17 and the BJP 11 seats in the state assembly with independents and others accounting for 10 seats.
What has encouraged the BJP to aim high in the assembly elections is the response Narendra Modi received during his two visits to the Jammu region during the election campaign that swept him into the prime minister’s office.
The Congress was uprooted by BJP candidates during the Lok Sabha elections in assembly segments that had once been its strongholds.
The BJP’s Jugul Kishore won from Jammu, leaving his Congress rival, Madan Lal Sharma, miles behind.
The Chhamb (reserved) assembly segment, represented by senior Congress leader and Deputy Chief Minister Tara Chand, saw more votes polled for the BJP candidate than the Congress candidate.
The Akhnoor assembly segment, which is represented by Sharma’s younger brother, Sham Lal Sharma, the irrigation and public health engineering minister, also saw more votes polled for the BJP candidate.
In the Udhampur constituency, where the Congress had fielded its stalwart, former state chief minister and then union health minister, Ghulam Nabi Azad, an otherwise lesser known Jitender Singh of the BJP won by over 60,000 votes.
Assembly seats like the Gandhi Nagar, represented by the Congress leader and state minister Raman Bhalla, and Vijaypur, represented by the NC’s Surjeet Singh Salathia, also saw more votes polled for the BJP.
“These are realities the BJP is working on to realize its +44 plan,” said a senior Congress leader who obviously did not want to be named.
With Modi in power at the centre, the BJP believes it would make mincemeat of its rivals in the Jammu region, which accounts for 37 seats. (The Kashmir Valley has 46 seats and Ladakh four).
Whether or not the BJP is able to realize its lofty dream of getting 44 seats, the fact remains it has emerged as a force to reckon with in the Jammu region.
Heady on the wine of success, the spirits are already running high among the rank and file of the BJP in Jammu and Kashmir.