1987 Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Assembly election
all 76 seats in Legislative Assembly
39 seats needed for a majority
The election is widely perceived to have been rigged. The rigging of the election is believed to have led to the insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir and the exodus of lakhs of Kashmiri Pandits. After the following elections to the Parliament in 1989, which saw low turn-out, Governor's Rule was declared in Jammu and Kashmir in 1990, which lasted till 1996.
The background of the 1987 election is fraught with multiple complexities.
During the long years of imprisonment of Sheikh Abdullah, his loyalists split off from the National Conference party and formed a Plebiscite Front. The remaining members of the National Conference merged their party with the Indian National Congress.
After Abdullah's release and his accord with Indira Gandhi, the Congress party accepted him as its own Head and elected him as the State's Chief Minister. However, during the 1977 election, Abdullah shunned the Congress party and revived a new National Conference party from the erstwhile Plebiscite Front. He won the election handsomely.
After Sheikh Abdullah's death, the Congress party again sought an alliance with the National Conference for the 1983 election. It was again shunned and the new leader Farooq Abdullah won the election independently. Congress however emerged as the de facto party of the Jammu region. Congress exploited the internal squabbles in the National Conference and teamed up with Farooq's brother-in-law G. M. Shah to topple Farooq's government. This lead to a period of instability during which the Governor's Rule was imposed.
After Rajiv Gandhi became the leader of the Indian National Congress, another accord was reached with Farooq Abdullah. The Governor's Rule was lifted and Farooq returned to power in 1986, but with the understanding that Congress and the National Conference would form an alliance for the 1987 election. In the view of scholar Steve Widmalm, the State's two largest parties had formed an 'election cartel' so that discontent could not be channeled.
Before the election, various anti-establishment groups including Jamaat-e-Islami joined hands to form a Muslim United Front (MUF) mainly pointing out that the NC had capitulated before the Centre for the sake of power and bartered away the special status of the State. Efforts were made to arouse Muslim sentiments along communal lines. MUF's election manifesto stressed the need for a solution to all outstanding issues according to Simla Agreement, work for Islamic unity and against political interference from the centre. Their slogan was wanting the law of the Quran in the Assembly.
Elections for Bhadrawah, Leh and Kargil were held in June 1987.
The India Today reported that ″starting about two weeks before the election, 600 opposition workers were arrested in areas where the MUF, independents, and PC candidates were showing strength″.
In the Amira Kadal constituency of Srinagar, MUF's Syed Mohammed Yusuf Shah was a candidate. As the vote counting began, it was becoming clear that Yusuf Shah was winning by a landslide. His opponent, Ghulam Mohiuddin Shah, went home dejected. But he was summoned back by the electoral officials and declared the winner. When the crowds protested, the police arrived and arrested Yusuf Shah and his supporters. They were held in custody till the end of 1987.
Leader of the People's Conference, Abdul Ghani Lone, complained that vote counting in the constituency of Handwara was tampered with by the deputy inspector-general of police, A.M. Watali. There were several cases like this with other candidates but the petitions to the courts did not lead to any action. There was no response from the central government, courts or the election commission to the demands that the allegations of rigging be investigated. Kashmir's High Court chose not to probe the allegations and the Election Commission was inactive at the time.
Balraj Puri has noted three constituencies where the MUF lost narrowly: Bijbehara, Wachi and Shopian. The number of rejected votes in these constituencies was far higher than the margin of victory for the alliance, indicating that the vote counting could have been easily manipulated.
Vote counting in seats where the MUF held influence took longer than the three hours of vote counting in Farooq Abdullah's seat. In the vital district of Anantnag it was reported that the results were delayed for 2 and a half days while the polling station was surrounded by hundreds of policemen. In Bijbehara the polling officers simply refused to count on when they found that a MUF candidate had taken an early lead. An NC candidate with a lead of 300 votes was declared the winner in Doru even though more than a thousand votes remained to be counted. Counting in the Pulwama constituency took no account of the strategic Tahab belt. Counting in Shopian and Sopore went on for three days until MUF candidates were declared the losers.
BBC reported that Khem Lata Wukhloo, who was a leader of the Congress party at the time, admitted the widespread rigging in Kashmir. He stated:
"I remember that there was a massive rigging in 1987 election. The losing candidates were declared winners. It shook the ordinary people's faith in the elections and the democratic process."
Many see this rigged election as a cause of militancy in Kashmir. Abdul Ghani Lone became a separatist leader after the 1987 election and stated that many young people, out of frustration with the democratic process, decided to go for an armed struggle.
Extent of electoral malpractice
This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (February 2018)
The extent of election malpractice has been debated.
Scholar Victoria Schofield has stated that the MUF might have won four more seats if there was no electoral fraud. On the other hand, an anonymous source in the Intelligence Bureau has advanced the estimate that the MUF may have lost approximately 13 seats due to electoral malpractice. Other journalists and commentators have estimated a loss of fifteen to twenty seats. Farooq Abdullah himself has admitted that MUF might have been able to win 20 seats in the absence of rigging.
The NC-Congress alliance won 66 seats in the Assembly: NC winning 40 seats of the 45 it contested, and Congress winning 26 out of 31 (5 out of 6 contested seats in the Valley). The alliance received only 53% of the popular vote but garnered 87% of the seats.
The disparity between the popular vote and the seat wins was very high. (In comparison, in 1983, the NC and Congress polled 78% of the vote to achieve 95% of the seats.) Scholar Sten Widmalm explains the increased disparity as an effect of forming an "election cartel" (between the NC and Congress), which had a dominant effect in the "first past the post system" election system used in India. The cartel's victory seemed unfair to many Jammu and Kashmir voters, which was magnified when allegations of fraud came to the surface.
The MUF's garnering of the 31% of the vote in its first electoral contest has been described as 'huge'. Journalist Balraj Puri states that the MUF emerged as the main alternative to the NC-Congress alliance in all parts of the Valley, except the four constituencies of the Kupwara district where People's Conference came in the second place. Syed Ali Shah Geelani was able to win the election from his Sopore seat.
Even though the People's Conference did not win a seat despite having been expected to do well in the constituencies of Bandipora, Sangrama, Handwara, and Kupwara they still managed to capture 93949 votes.
Farooq Abdullah was elected Chief Minister and formed a coalition government. However, the Government lacked legitimacy in the eyes of the people in the Valley. Rebels stamped the election as a "thoroughly made one". The Valley sank into a "morass of frustration and radicalization", states scholar Sumantra Bose. In June 1988, there were protests against a hike in the electricity tariffs, resulting in police firings. In July, the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front launched its first bomb attack in Srinagar. A cycle of violence and protests took hold, steadily rising in tempo. In January 1990, the Farooq Abdullah government was dismissed and Governor's Rule was declared.
- Statistical Report on the General Election, 1987, Election Commission of India, New Delhi.
- Sameer Arshad. "History of electoral fraud has lessons for BJP in J&K". Times of India. Retrieved 23 November 2014.
- "Elections in Kashmir". mid-day. Retrieved 11 April 2017.
- Praveen Donthi, How Mufti Mohammad Sayeed Shaped The 1987 Elections In Kashmir, The Caravan, 23 March 2016.
- Jacob, Happymon. "Kashmir insurgency, 20 years after". The Hindu. Retrieved 15 May 2017.
- "Decline in voter turnout in Kashmir after 'rigged election of 1987'". Greater Kashmir.
- "A Survey of Elections in Kashmir by Mayilvaganan". Institute of Peace & Conflict Studies -. Retrieved 11 April 2017.
- Specified, Not. "Assembly Election 1987". www.jammu-kashmir.com. Retrieved 11 April 2017.
- "The Siege Of Kashmir". The Caravan. 29 March 2012. Retrieved 11 April 2017.
- Question of Simple Majority Greater Kashmir; 7 July 2014.
- "How representative is Jammu and Kashmir assembly? | Latest News & Updates at Daily News & Analysis". DNA. 25 November 2014. Retrieved 11 April 2017.
- Widmalm, Kashmir in Comparative Perspective 2002, p. 77.
- Schofield, Kashmir in Conflict 2003, p. 138.
- Bose, Transforming India 2013, pp. 274–275.
- Schofield, Kashmir in Conflict 2003, p. 137.
- Bose, Kashmir: Roots of Conflict, Paths to Peace 2003, p. 49.
- A Survey of Elections in Kashmir, Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies, 10 April 2002
- Widmalm, The Rise and Fall of Democracy in Jammu and Kashmir 1997, p. 1020-1021.
- Bose, Kashmir: Roots of Conflict, Paths to Peace 2003, pp. 48–49.
- Puri, Fundamentalism in Kashmir, Fragmentation in Jammu 1987, p. 835.
- Hussain, Masood (23 March 2016). "MUFfed". Kashmir Life. Retrieved 21 February 2018.
- Hussain, Altaf (14 September 2002). "Kashmir's flawed elections". BBC.
- "Is BJP planning poll tie-ups with separatist groups in Jammu & Kashmir? | Latest News & Updates at Daily News & Analysis". dna. 28 July 2014. Retrieved 15 May 2017.
- Foreign Affairs Committee (2007), South Asia: fourth report of session 2006-07, report, together with formal minutes, oral and written evidence, The Stationery Office, Great Britain: Parliament: House of Commons, pp. 28–29, ISBN 978-0-215-03378-9
- Widmalm, The Rise and Fall of Democracy in Jammu and Kashmir 1997, p. 1021.
- Brass, Paul R. (1994), The Politics of India Since Independence, Cambridge University Press, pp. 221–222, ISBN 978-0-521-45970-9
- Bose, Transforming India 2013, p. 275.
- Widmalm, The Rise and Fall of Democracy in Jammu and Kashmir 1997, p. 1020.
- Widmalm, The Rise and Fall of Democracy in Jammu and Kashmir 1997, p. 1019.
- Rai, Mridu (2018), "Kashmir: From Princely State to Insurgency", Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Asian History, Oxford University Press, doi:10.1093/acrefore/9780190277727.013.184
- Widmalm, The Rise and Fall of Democracy in Jammu and Kashmir 1997, p. 1020; Widmalm, Kashmir in Comparative Perspective 2002, p. 78: "The unusually poor correlation between votes and seats may possibly have planted unfounded suspicion in the minds of those who were unaware of the peculiarities of the majority election system with single-member constituencies."
- Hussain, Masood (23 March 2016). "MUFfed". Kashmir Life. Retrieved 21 February 2018.
Despite all this, MUF polled huge. It took 470580 votes making 30.96 percent of the popular vote.
- "Sopore Election 2014, Results, Candidate List and winner of Sopore Assembly (Vidhan Sabha) Constituency, Jammu And Kashmir". www.elections.in. Retrieved 11 April 2017.
- Das Gupta, Islamic Fundamentalism and India 2002, p. 106.
- Bose, Transforming India 2013, p. 276.
- Bose, Sumantra (2003), Kashmir: Roots of Conflict, Paths to Peace, Harvard University Press, ISBN 0-674-01173-2
- Bose, Sumantra (2013), Transforming India, Harvard University Press, ISBN 9780674728196
- Das Gupta, J. B. (2002), Islamic Fundamentalism and India, Gurgaon: Hope India Publications (for Maulana Abul Kalam Azad Institute of Asian Studies), ISBN 978-1-61820-159-1
- Grover, Verinder; Arora, Ranjana, eds. (1996). Encyclopaedia of India and Her States: Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir and Punjab. Deep & Deep. ISBN 978-81-7100-723-3.
- Guha, Ramachandra (2008), India after Gandhi: The History of the World's Largest Democracy, Pan Macmillan, ISBN 0330396110
- Puri, Balraj (30 May 1987), "Fundamentalism in Kashmir, Fragmentation in Jammu", Economic and Political Weekly, 22 (22): 835–837, JSTOR 4377036
- Schofield, Victoria (2003) [First published in 2000], Kashmir in Conflict, London and New York: I. B. Taurus & Co, ISBN 1860648983
- Widmalm, Sten (November 1997), "The Rise and Fall of Democracy in Jammu and Kashmir", Asian Survey, 37 (11): 1005–1030, JSTOR 2645738
- Widmalm, Sten (2002), Kashmir in Comparative Perspective: Democracy and Violent Separatism in India, Psychology Press, ISBN 978-0-7007-1578-7