Rahul’s Visit To J&K A Flop Show!
At a time when Jammu and Kashmir government is reeling under crisis due to the resignation of more than 700 democratically elected Panchayat members, Congress General Secretary Rahul Gandhi landed in Srinagar with a high-profile business delegation. The mass resignation comes against the backdrop of the spurt in killings of Panchayat members in the Valley. The development has triggered worries not only in the Valley but also in Delhi. The fact remains that all the Panchayat members got elected after braving guns in the state’s first Panchayat polls in three decades. Amid the unsavoury developments Rahul Gandhi’s visit to the valley was bound to raise eyebrows.
The business delegation interacted with more than 700 students of Kashmir University. However, a group of students representing Kashmir University Student’s Union was denied entry into the venue fearing disruption in proceedings due to its anti-India stance. Rahul, who visited Kashmir University last year had promised students that he would visit them again with a business delegation to discuss job placements.
Prior to his Kashmir visit Rahul Gandhi had met a delegation of Panchayat leaders in Delhi and discussed security-related issues with them. Rahul Gandhi had assured them that security would be provided to all members in the wake of the recent killings of their colleagues by the militants. Convener of Jammu and Kashmir Panchayat Conference—a ten-member body—and village Chief, Shafiq Mir, confirmed that Gandhi fully supported the Village Council and assured security. “He asked us not to resign, as he said that we have to fight a long battle in order to implement Mahatma Gandhi’s Panchayti Raj system.” Rahul again addressed the members in Srinagar after discussing security-related issues with Chief Minister Omar Abdullah.
Significantly, Rahul’s visit to the Valley at this time shows how eager he is to strike an emotional chord with Kashmiris and win their hearts. By flaunting his Kashmiri family background, fond attachment with students community and concern for more than 34000 village representatives Rahul wanted to convey the message that he was one among them. Rahul Gandhi also asserted that he wanted to feel the pain of Kashmiris and work for the redressal of their grievance. People speculate that Rahul landed in Kashmir just to cash in on the ongoing political situation arising out of the mass resignation of the sarpanchs rather than having any sympathy for the local people. The fact remains that relations between the two coalition partners—Congress and National Conference—have been souring for the last few months over the power sharing and other issues. There are no two opinions that Rahul is eyeing to expand Congress base in Kashmir so that party forms government of its own after the next elections.
Undoubtedly, time will tell how far Rahul succeeds in his mission to turn hostile Kashmiris into Congress vote base. But the task is not easier as it may seem to Congress leaders who are every now and then chanting Rahul mantra. The fact remains that Kashmiris have first preference for resolution of Kashmir issue and then other issues. And till the UPA addresses political solution to Kashmir one should not expect Rahul to do miracles in the state. The other fact remains that none of the industrialists would be ready to open any industry in the state unless militancy wanes. This fact has been confirmed by Ratan Tata who said that for setting up business in the state peace was must. The business delegation is thus unlikely to help Congress in gaining sympathies of the local people in near future.
Apart from non-resolution of Kashmir issue the present generation is also disenchanted with the functioning of Congress and National Conference leadership in the state. As a matter of fact there has been a phenomenal increase in corruption since Congress formed the government—first with PDP and now with National Conference. It is unbelievable that more than three years have passed but the state government is yet to pass any financial or administrative powers to the local Panchayats. The state government has come out of deep slumber only after the Panchayat leaders tendered resignations and agreed to share powers with the elected representatives at grassroots level.
There is no denying the fact that Rahul Gandhi campaigned extensively in the 2012 Assembly elections, especially in the highly politically crucial state of Uttar Pradesh but couldn’t revive the Congress fortunes in the state. After the Congress’s defeat in UP questions were raised about his political future. Besides UP Rahul also toured many other states, spending nights in Dalit huts and sharing food with them. By indulging in such gestures Rahul intended to win the hearts of the community who formed the vote bank of other political parties. But his attempts went awry as the opposition exposed his true intentions.
On his extraordinary gestures Adam Roberts, a journalist in The Economist wrote an article on Rahul Gandhi, saying that Rahul Gandhi at this stage of his political career was only involved in gesture politics. “Rahul tries to do gesture politics. He goes out and spends half a night in the home of a Dalit in Uttar Pradesh. But I have been back to those homes, as other journalists have done, and talk to the people of the family and asked what was the follow up, what happened after Rahul Gandhi came and visited your house and they say nothing. It was pure posturing and gesture politics,” Roberts told CNN-IBN in a television interview some time back.
Evidently, Rahul is toiling hard to set Congress foothold in the states where its presence is negligible. However, the results so far show that Congress has not gained substantial benefits in the states toured either by Rahul or his mother Sonia Gandhi. The political pundits reason that people are disenchanted with Gandhi duo as they have failed to curb corruption culture in the Congress party. Another reason for Congress debacle is attributed to the non-fulfillment of promises made by Sonia and Rahul Gandhi during their interactions with the local people.
The promises are made but never addressed and this was witnessed in Kashmir too. In Kashmir Panchayat leaders walked out of a meeting with Rahul Gandhi to express their displeasure over unfulfilled promises. The Congress leader faced protests, slogans and open resentment at a meeting with Panchayat members in Srinagar. The Panchayat members said that they were unhappy with the Congress leader as they were not given anything that was promised to them earlier. They said that Gandhi spoke to them about more empowerment for the Panchayat, but didn’t commit to changes in the Panchayat Act that would allow this.
A loud message emnates from Srinagar that Rahul’s attempt to build Congress’s fortunes in Kashmir are far fetched.
By Sushil Vakil