Takeaways from the Opportunistic Drama of Power in Jammu and Kashmir
Some pluses in a sea of cons
If the reason for the hasty cobbling together of the opportunistic ‘grand alliance’ was to prevent the Bharatiya Janata Party from succeeding in its mission to restore the Assembly with Sajad Lone in the chair, it is to be welcomed as it succeeded in the mission. But short of this, the high drama in Srinagar through last evening was devoid of the principles and political morality which alone can restore some level of stability and peace in the Valley, torn apart by the worst kind of politics we have seen in contemporary times.
Look at the run up to the events. First Sajad Lone – egged on by the BJP of course – emerged to begin ‘talks’ for forming a new government in the state. Clearly once again he had been told by the BJP that he could be Chief Minister if he brought in the numbers. And hence started trying to break the existing parties to add to his count of two MLAs. He seemed to have met with a little success when Peoples Democratic Party leader Muzaffar Baig, a man who has always marched to the rebels' tune under both Mufti and his daughter, embraced him as his long lost brother and announced his ‘homecoming’. This perked up dissidents within the PDP which has slowly been crumbling after Mehbooba Mufti’s disastrous politics, and reports that more opportunists might cross the Rubicon started making the rounds.
Mehbooba Mufti with little to speak for her after her long stint with the BJP, which is directly responsible for the complete mess and chaos prevailing in Kashmir, panicked. And sent out more credible faces than hers like Altaf Bukhari to approach the other opposition parties for the ‘grand alliance’. After a few days positive signals were received from the Congress party and the National Conference, with both realising they had little to lose and more to gain from this charade. They would be able to stand and say they shook hands with the enemy to save the status of the state, and ensure some relief to the people by getting rid of the BJP. In fact, they started saying this as soon as the alliance was formalised, through a letter Mufti wrote to the Governor telling him she would stake claim to forming the government with their support.
Governor Satyapal Malik did what anyone would expect. He stepped in to dissolve the Assembly and pave the way for fresh polls. The Opposition can credit itself with forcing his hand. The BJP can take the credit for saving the state from further ruin at the hand of the ‘opportunistic’ alliance. But four facts are amply clear in immediate terms:
Sajad Lone can rest on his laurels now. As the brakes have been put on his political ambitions, and he will be lucky to win his own seat when elections are held.
The political future of Muzaffar Baig is also under a stormy cloud. As he has burnt his bridges with the PDP, and is regarded as a politician who cannot be trusted. But he is a shifty leader and has shown the resilience and ability to keep bouncing back to the same side of the fence he has himself tried several times to leave. His ability to pull rebels out of the PDP has been punctured effectively.
Mehbooba Mufti has managed to still the rebellion in her ranks for now. And the PDP given the dissolution of the Assembly and possible elections, is likely to remain with her as the undisputed leader. More so after the ‘trust’ reposed in her abilities by the NC and the Congress over the last few days.
The NC and the Congress stand where they were, part of a coalition in the state as and when it goes to polls, and of a larger national understanding. Both are chuffed at having redeemed themselves as the more tolerant, forgiving, expansive political alternative that stands for the security and stability of Kashmir and Kashmiris. The self righteousness is visible already.
But perhaps the most important result of the drama is that the BJP will no longer be able to laugh its way to the vote bank, with the Doval Doctrine lying in pieces around it. The government has been losing control over the state with the force and violence being used by the security apparatus raising eyebrows across the world – which of course is still not speaking publicly – and delivering little but sustained militancy on the ground. Militants are being killed, but increasingly now so are civilians and personnel from the army, police and the paramilitary forces.
Besides, it is known to all that organised violence of the levels it has reached in Kashmir cannot work for ever, and weakens not just the people being targeted but also the government, which cannot wage eternal war upon the people India has always seen as her own. The Army is overstretched, fatigued and while of course it can carry on forever the big questions are: Does it want to? Does this continuous violence across the Valley meet the strategic goals the government started out with? Is it even working?
Fresh elections might not work as well for the BJP, which is reported to have been losing ground in its bastion of Jammu. With the Congress now making it apparent that it has stepped in as the main coalition partner, as either of the two regional parties are acceptable to it, the experiences of the past years definitely make the BJP more of a pariah than it was in the state in 2014.
Where does this leave Kashmir and the people who remain the yardstick to judge the performance of any democracy? The suffering has been tremendous, the trauma unmeasurable. And if the NC, Congress and of course the PDP had been at all responsible and accountable they would have proposed this coalition six months ago, or even earlier. But then Mehbooba Mufti would not have been willing as her own relations with the BJP were fine, and power still seemed to be the elixir that was working. Her rushing around this time was born of a desperate bid to save her party, and little more than that.
Sheer opportunism has defined the working of the PDP, and earlier the NC. This was very visible yesterday as well. It is imperative that these regional parties realise there is more to Kashmir than self serving government, and learn from the hell the state has gone through to work towards re-establishing paradise. It will not be an easy walk as it requires tremendous commitment, grit, courage and a vision – and all are in very short supply in Jammu and Kashmir.