Kismet Of Kashmir
What next in the militancy-torn Jammu & Kashmir is a serious question considering its strategic importance in the region’s geopolitics
Political fluidity resulted due to the fractured Assembly election. What form would the new government be was unclear until this issue went to Press. But one thing is certain it could be a coalition of strange bedfellows.
Another thing which is certain is that with the remarkable climb up of BJP from 11 in the outgoing Assembly to 25, churning of Kashmir politics is inevitable. Kashmir politics will never be the same. BJP will now be a factor. The manifestations of changes will be felt in the time to come.
This election has been a game-changer and the Valley cannot hope to wrap itself like cocoon and survive. Slowly its people will have to accept they are conjoined with India. They cannot escape that, whether they like it or not!
The PDP (Peoples Democratic Party of Muftis) emerged as the single largest party with 28 seats followed by BJP with 25 seats. Both were disappointed. PDP expected to sweep the Poll and be able to form government on its own, so did BJP with its mission of +44. The reason for their setbacks was polarization of Muslim voters in the Valley and of Hindus in the Jammu region.
PDP could not secure votes outside its traditional strongholds and overall its vote percentage was over one per cent less than that of BJP. But the saffron party’s biggest setback was its failure to open its score in the Valley. Its vote percentage, 2.2 per cent in the valley showed that the people there have yet to overcome their suspicion or any liking for it. Were they put off by a game plan of a group within BJP.
The fact is that BJP’s dismal performance in the valley was not shocking but a bit surprising. Until the rounds of polling started, reports were that the BJP had won the support of Gujjars and Narendra Modi’s promise of development and change impacted on the Muslim youth. Reliable observers of Valley politics predicted that many young, wanting development and creation of job opportunities, could vote for BJP candidates. They could have helped BJP win at least one or two seats.
Simply unheard of until now, one BJP candidate lost by just by 2000 odd votes while another stood third in the valley.
The party was undone by conversion zealots who were unleashed by the RSS and its affiliates. The conversions, which are seen as part of the plan of a segment of RSS leaders and BJP oldies sitting in Delhi to pull down Modi, certainly frightened the youth in the valley. Earlier too, over-eager leaders had announced that once BJP government was formed chief minister would be a Hindu and that Art 370 will be revoked.
Coming back to which parties could align to form the government. All parties are both hunting and playing hide and seek. The ideal would be for the PDP and BJP to combine. Its logical too. PDP represents the Valley and BJP represents the Jammu region, and their combination would represent the whole of J&K. But logic and politics are incompatible. PDP and BJP have been negotiating but until this issue went to press no deal was done. PDP’s condition that Delhi must open negotiations with Pakistan was downright outrageous. A state party has no right to dictate to the Centre on foreign policy matters. Mohammad Mufit Sayeed is too seasoned politician to make such a demand. It must be a brain wave of some hotheads in his party.
It is also reported that many in the PDP are aggressively opposed to any alliance with the BJP. Possibly because of such a strong opposition PDP’s latest was that it was open to an alliance with the National Conference and the Congress. The three have to be together to form a workable majority. This would be like sleeping with enemies. But when it comes to power, principles are forgotten. The danger in such a three way alliance is instability. Mufti Sayeed would be engrossed 24X7 in keeping the flock together rather than work for development.
This would also alienate the Jammu region for a long time. One can expect demonstrations and blockades against movement to the Valley. Like Sheikh Abdullah once, Mufti might be unable to come to Jammu. More significantly it will make Centre hostile. Can J&K government afford to irk Delhi?
The separatists could get encouraged to play their fifth column role. Hurriyat while having a say in such a coalition would surely demand autonomy, raising Delhi’s temperature higher. If such an alliance tries overtures with Pakistan to spite the BJP-led Government in Delhi, given Modi’s known tough temperament, Kashmir and Kashmiris could find themselves in deep trouble. Will the seasoned and veteran politician like Mufti risk such a scenario?
He is sagacious enough to foresee that politics in Kashmir is never going to be the same. This state election has been a game changer and its manifestations will be felt slowly but surely. Many things have already changed. The decade old alliance between National Conference and the Congress broke, in the PDP, Mehbooba Mufti became the young face of the party and the BJP, for the first time became a factor in J&K politics.
Another possibility is that when BJP leaders met the Governor, they claimed the support of Sajjad Lone and another MLA of his party and six Independents. That made BJP the largest party.
The best possible solution is for the PDP and BJP to form the Government. Such consolidations mean that voters in Jammu and the ones in the valley who reposed their trust in BJP and the PDP respectively would have confidence that their aspirations, and development would be fulfilled. This is a message and warning to the parties.
The stirring in politics of the valley has also signalled that most Kashmiris trust that elections would be free and fair. This affirmation of democratic process by the people living in fear of the militants’ bullets and separatists warning against Delhi’s malevolence and intent could be the platform to build harmonious relations between Delhi and Srinagar.
Whatever combination forms the government it will have to take into account that if the polarity in this election persists, it can have serious repercussions in a State bedevilled by militancy. The BJP having secured 25 seats from Jammu region will surely clamour for urgent development and priority to resolve its problem. It would press its own agenda, like bringing back the Hindu Temple bill, stressing on getting back Kashmiri Pandits to rehabilitate them and ensure their safety.
The PDP or National Conference, owing their position to the polarised Muslim community, might not think that going out of the normal and using most of their government’s resources in development of Jammu region politically expedient.
The PDP and BJP combine will be ideal for the development and comparative peace in the region. Anything else could prove disastrous.
What was emerging in the midst of contradictory reports was that the Governor might impose Governor’s rule for three months.
By Vijay dutt