24 May 2024 06:21 PM



Viewpoint From J&K: Battle Between Arithmetic and Ideology

Will there be a BJP-PDP coalition in the state?

SRINAGAR:The notoriously dreaded 'Chilla-i-Kalan' (a period of 40 days extreme biting cold and freezing conditions in the Kashmir Valley, beginning December 21 each year) has never been so full of suspense, politically, as it is now.

The fractured results in the J&K Legislative Assembly Elections have not provided any warmth or relief whatsoever to any political party in 'Chilla-i-Kalan'.

The counting of votes began on December 23. On the same day, the results were made public. Much to the annoyance of all major political forces, the split verdict meant that no party could form the government on its own.

Clearly, these are perils of the hung assembly.

In the five-phased elections the regional and religious divide between Jammu Province and the Kashmir Valley became noticeable. It manifested itself in a manner which only added to the prevailing political uncertainty and chaos.

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had thought that the results would completely swing in its favour and that it would conquer at least 35-40 assembly segments to make a strong political statement in the restive region.

That was not meant to be.

Shrewd politician Mufti Muhammad Saeed's PDP did emerge as the single largest political force with 28 assembly seats, though fell way short of its own expectations.

On expected lines, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came in as a major political force to reckon with in the Jammu region.

There is an argument that if the verdict in Jammu was based on 'communal' lines how come it was 'secular' in the Muslim-dominated Kashmir valley?

Granted, the democratic choice and verdict of the people of Jammu can't be brushed under the carpet. Democracy, after all, is a game of numbers. And the BJP has numbers on its side, 25 assembly seats.

Perhaps there is also some weight in the argument that the vote for the BJP in Jammu was not necessarily communal, as many Indian political scientists keep insisting that the voters in Jharkhand for example chose Prime Minister Narendra Modi's party only because of the promises of development, 'Sab Ka Vikas'!

However, drawing parallels between Jammu & Kashmir and other Indian states like Jharkhand is erroneous.

There is no challenge to Indian rule in Jharkhand or Bihar, but there is a major section of population in Jammu & Kashmir which has larger political aspirations. And these aspirations challenge the Indian rule and authority in Kashmir and aren't in tune with the very idea of India and its slogan of unity in diversity.

That is not the case with Jharkhand.

Also, Jammu & Kashmir has a political history, geographical proximity with two nuclear neighbours and strategic significance. There is Article-370, which grants the region its special status and also defines the parameters of its constitutional relationship with the Indian Union.

Jammu & Kashmir has a separate flag and separate constitution. Besides, a popular anti-India armed uprising erupted in J&K in 1989.

Earlier, there was the Plebiscite Front Movement led by Sheikh Abdullah. Afterwards, the years 2008, 2009 and 2010 witnessed transition from violent to non-violent struggle in shape of street protests in which tens of thousands of Kashmiri people participated and made their political aspiration known to the entire world.

Another matter that the Indian forces and state police responded with brute force, resulting in killing of over 200 youths in three years, mostly teenagers.

Before making unfair comparisons, all political scientists and analysts should keep the historical background of Jammu & Kashmir in perspective and realise that no Indian state had its own Prime Minister and 'Sadr-e-Riyasat' like J&K had.

The voters in Kashmir did not vote because of communal considerations but tried their best to keep the perceived communal force in the BJP out of the reckoning in the Valley.

That's perhaps why the valley votes got divided between the two regional parties--the National Conference (NC) and the PDP-- and another perceived 'secular' party in Indian National Congress.

Let's try and understand how the election campaign went on in Jammu & Kashmir.

The Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed a rally in Srinagar on December 8 in which he took a dig at three families--Abdullahs, Muftis and Gandhis.

"Three families--Congress, father-son party (National Conference) and father-daughter party (Peoples Democratic Party) have ruined J&K. They ensured everything for themselves, but left people to suffer. I urge you to throw all these three families out of the State and allow me to serve you....," Modi said.

On August 25, Amit Shah, Modi's right-hand man, addressed a rally in Kathua. Shah too had castigated the Muftis and Abdullahs.

"There is a need to end the family rule in Jammu and Kashmir as the two families (of Abdullahs and Muftis) have only looked for their own interest at the cost of people's aspirations."

Both Mufti Muhammad Saeed and Mehbooba Mufti had strongly responded to the remarks made by Modi-Shah duo. Mehbooba had gone to the extent of saying that the BJP was "playing with fire by trying to divide the state on ethnic and communal lines for electoral gains..."

Well, the politicians, as a matter of routine, do say a lot of things during their poll campaign and when it comes to practicality of government formation they move on and forget pre-poll acrimonies. And, in politics, as they say, rats marry snakes.

But there appears a huge chasm between the political ideologies of the BJP and PDP.

To bridge the existing yawning gap between the two forces a lot of thinking and political foresight is required.

Arithmetically speaking though, the BJP-PDP combine provides the most stable government and a politically pragmatic solution to present status quo in Jammu & Kashmir.

But this possible partnership puts the future of the PDP at peril in the Kashmir valley.

Can the PDP convince its legislators, winning candidates, and the people who cast votes in their favour of its decision to join hands with "communal force"?

PDP's patron Mufti Saeed has sought feedback from his legislators. His daughter Mehbooba Mufti's meeting with Governor NN Vohra has been rescheduled; she will now meet the latter on December 31.

There is an uneasy calm and eerie silence in Kashmir. Coming days might clear the political fog.