By K.N. Pandita
I am prompted to script this rejoinder to an article ‘1977 revisits us … (DE 16 Nov) by B.L. Saraf. He has pulled out a page from the recent history of Kashmir and used it to draw analogy to the political scenario that is likely to unfold in the State in the wake of impending Assembly elections.
His contention is that BJP’s hyperactive electoral campaign in the valley and its overtures to the independent and end-loose candidates could prove as imbecile as was the camaraderie of Janata Party crusaders who had ganged up in 1977 against the tallest of all political leaders of Kashmir.
The historical part of the write-up is factual and does not stir up any controversy. But the analogy is misplaced for a number of reasons. History accepts no stagnation.
Firstly, there is no political leader of the stature of late Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah in the fray against whom other contestants would need to put up joint front. In a sense, in the realm of political leadership, there is a vacuum of sorts in the valley. Senior most among the old guard, Mufti Muhammad Saeed heads a party which is born out of the womb of armed insurgency. One may appreciate his great skill in doing political tight rope walking but his party’s vulnerability on national issues remains in place.
Secondly, Janata Party owed its rise to emergency imposed by Indira Gandhi and followed by incarceration of almost all political heavy weights in the opposition. Janata movement was actually a movement in reaction to something synonymous with dictatorship and arbitrary rule. No such situation has shaped in the country in 2014 to apprehend replication of 1977.
Thirdly, assembly elections in J&K after 1990 have been held under the shadow of militancy. As a result of two decades of militancy, polarization of Kashmirian society, the natural corollary of far reaching turmoil, has vitiated political atmosphere leading to severe trust deficit. There is trust deficit between the government and the governed; there is trust deficit between political parties even if they are in coalition, and there is trust deficit within the fold of the civil society.
Against this fractured social order, socio-political construct during the 1977 Janata wave was far more placid and cohesive. The odds for the crusaders of Janata movement in the State were almost absent except the one and the most formidable of all viz. the tallest among the political leaders of the State.
If we mean to be discerning and honest, we may recall that BJP has not opted for Modi wave in Kashmir as it has done in other parts of the country. By no stretch of imagination can we charge State BJP of riding on the crest of Modi wave as far as election campaign in Kashmir goes. BJP’s drive in the valley is on low and subdued key essentially for the reason of strategic rather than street campaigning. Of all national level political parties, BJP has the deepest and most objective knowledge of Kashmirian psyche.
The reason for BJP to carry subtle but effective election campaign in the valley stems from the atmosphere of siege created by Congress during its decades long stint at the centre. Congress, advertently or inadvertently, created an atmosphere which forced federating unit of Kashmir to adopt the nuances of a blackmailer.
If BJP wants to gain ground in Kashmir, it has to pull Kashmir out of the syndrome of a blackmailer as well as a perennial supplicant. Either of these statuses is totally unacceptable. It has to load Kashmirian mind not only with the rights they must have but also the duties which they cannot shun.
If BJP seeks to put stray beads in one string, we should first try to understand what makes the beads roll in different directions. Independent and non-conventional candidates and groups are not assessing Modi wave in the country from the same prism from which NC-Congress coalition has been seeing it. History will judge whether by opting to stick to Congress like a leach, NC reinforced or lost its image in the valley. Vitriolic of NC patron against Modi in pre election days is more than matched by his grave-like silence in post election period. Mark his Himalayan blunder with gravest consequences.
Away from BJP’s low key campaign in Kashmir, the dynamics of changing political scenario in the country will certainly impact forthcoming election in J&K. What BJP appears to be campaigning for in J&K is not votes but the looming change? Entire Kashmir is pining for a change. And if BJP takes up vivisection of the need for change in Kashmir, it will be doing tremendous service in breaking the six decade and half- old siege of Kashmiris.
On the basis of perfunctory glance, we may deduce that BJP government in Delhi is inching towards taking the Kashmir bull by its horns. Positive response to the natural calamity that has struck the valley, decision to relegate Article 370 controversy to the backburner, insistence on expediting completion of defe
Of course, eradication of corruption is the uphill task for any political party in the State. Corruption in the State is linked more to the rise of insurgency than to any other phenomenon. There are no two opinions about regional political parties having succumbed to vote bank politics as well as the politics of intimidation. People want a change in this environment.
BJP believes that change should come from within and not from outside. It means that the people must volunteer to bring about a change. That will be sustainable. It will be reminded that both State Vigilance Organization and State Vigilance Commission have become toothless owing to importunate interference by political class. People have been lamenting for a drastic change.
Given the divergent construct of three regions that comprise the State of Jammu and Kashmir, it will be difficult to escape the evil of coalition arrangement of governance. Coalitions succeed on the basis of human approach to problems; they collapse because of lack of national perspective among the coalition partners. J&K will not be an exception to this harsh reality. Remember, people of the State will adjudge the coalition partners on the basis of this principle, failing which the State is doomed to run into another six year spell of disaster and rudderless voyage.