A historical look at the electoral patterns of the Baramulla-Kupwara constituency shows that the NC lost much of its influence after decades of dominance after 1989

By Latief U Zaman Deva

The political landscape of Jammu and Kashmir, which hangs in the balance in the 18th Lok Sabha elections, reveals the intricate dance of politics in this diverse constituency. Ideological divides and identity politics have split the former state’s electorate into two predominant camps: the integrationists and the federalists. The former, which include Dogras, Pandits and Buddhists, advocate centralised unity, a concept known as centripetalism.

The federalists, on the other hand — which include a spectrum of communities such as the Kosher, Gujjar, Bakerwals, Pahari, Balti, Dard, Purgy, Shena, Pashtuns and Sikhs, the latter having merged after Operation Blue Star — are pushing for a centrifugal political force and seeking greater autonomy.

Political parties such as the Indian National Congress (INC) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have traditionally espoused integrationist views, while the National Conference of Jammu and Kashmir (NC) has championed the federalist cause. In 1999 Peoples Democratic Party also joined in this league giving NC tough competition.

It made political ground shaky; with other regional parties formed in the 1980s and later also trying to capitalise on local sub-nationalism, albeit with limited success. The PDP emerged as a vanguard, attempting to take over the political legacy of Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah and uphold the banner of autonomy — a concept that was more theoretical than actualised.

A historical look at the electoral patterns of the Baramulla-Kupwara constituency shows that the NC lost much of its influence after decades of dominance after 1989. The victorious NC candidates in the parliamentary elections from 1977 to 1989 received 60 % to 90 % of the total valid votes cast, but after that, there was a clear downward trend, as Table 1 shows.

This shift in political fortunes coincides with differing views on various issues, from the two-nation theory to the nuances of accession and autonomy within the Indian Union. NC autonomy served as a buffer and melting pot that led to a modus vivendi across ethnic and geographical divides and ensured people their destiny in a democratic and secular India.

The unilateral abrogation of Article 370 by the Union Government has further strained the political fabric of the region and jeopardised the survival of local political entities and aspirations. To retain their relevance, the regional parties need to redefine their narratives by taking a leaf out of Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah’s political playbook while tuning into the socio-economic pulse of the people. The examples of DMK and AIADMK in far-off Tamil Nadu offer parallels. Without ideological anchoring, elections risk perpetuating political instability and unaccountability and de facto subjecting Jammu and Kashmir to centralised control in the future.

Demographics and ethnic characteristics

Demographics and ethnic composition indicate a mismatch between the electorate and the actual electorate, especially in districts like Kupwara and Anantnag, necessitating a re-examination of the data collection methods of the 2011 census.

Table 2 shows the population and ethnic composition of different ethnic groups in the constituencies as well as the number of assembly segments:

Compared to the national average of 60% voter-to-projected population ratio, Kupwara district has a lower voter population ratio of 54.08%, denying nearly 60,000 eligible voters the right to vote.

Anantnag district also has a low voter-to-population ratio of 52.80 per cent, affecting about 90,000 people. This calls for a thorough investigation to determine the causes of this discrepancy to ensure that it is not due to data collection and collation during the 2011 census.

Politically, the terrain is very different. In areas like Kamraz (in northwest Kashmir), the local leadership is challenging the status quo, citing the enduring legacy of Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah. Understanding the different political philosophies that characterise regional party affiliations is crucial, especially given the divide in the electorate and the widespread emotional susceptibility to political rhetoric.

The electoral history of the last four assembly elections illustrates the NC’s fluctuating fortunes in the 18 assembly segments of the constituency. The ethnopolitical dynamics in the Peer Panchal region contrast with those in Baramulla, where less ethnic diversity leads to different electoral influences.

It is crucial to focus on the political philosophies of the main regional parties and avoid distractions caused by routine secondary issues. The electorate is vertically split between those who agree with the policies and political philosophy of Sheikh  Mohammed Abdullah and those who disagree, with up to 20% being waverers or emotionally charged individuals prone to demagoguery.

In the last four general elections (1996, 2002-3, 2008-9 and 2014), the NC has consecutively won Budgam and Gurez, lost Karnah, Sumble Sonawari and Kupwara once, Handwara, Lolab, Pattan, Rafiabad, Uri, Sopore, Beerwah twice, Langate, Baramulla, Wagoora-Keeri, Bandipora and Gulmargthrice and failed to win on all four occasions. Understanding these dynamics is essential for effective political engagement.

“Trehgam has been carved out as a new constituency under the award of the Delimitation Commission 2022 & therefore doesn’t have electoral history as such. “

Recent shifts in political affiliation, especially within the Pahari community following the revocation of Article 370 and the granting of Scheduled Tribe status, are an example of the ongoing evolution of voter preferences, although the overall impact on political outcomes is likely to be small.

The inclusion of two assembly segments from Budgam district in the Baramulla parliamentary constituency could give the NC a strategic advantage, which could be further enhanced by the division of votes among the opposition parties.

A single contest could pose a challenge for the NC to retain its seat; however, the political scene is shaping up to be a multifaceted battle. Any potential alliance between regional parties such as the DPAP, the People’s Conference and the Apni Party would have to contend with the influence of the PDP and Awami Ittihad party, requiring greater efforts to achieve what otherwise seems unattainable.

Tables for Baramulla Parliamentary Constituency


Table 2 shows the population and ethnic composition of different ethnic groups in the constituencies as well as the number of assembly segments:

Tabule 3

Electors -Projected Papulation Ratio

The table below Shows the projected population, number of Electors and the voter Papulation Ratio for Various District’s.

(Courtesy Kashmir Times)

The author is a retired IAS officer and former chairman of the Jammu and Kashmir Public Service Commission


Shaharbeen News Service Kashmir is a news service which covers, gathers, writes, and distributes news to newspapers, periodicals, radio and television broadcasters, government agencies, and other users. We at SNS Kashmir believe in fair and independent journalism to inform our masses or subscribers and readers about the happenings around the world. The prime focus of the news gathering and reporting is focused on Jammu and Kashmir state.

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