J&K: the political freeze

By K.N. Pandita

Two months have gone by when people’s verdict was announced in J&K. Forming of government remains elusive. NC and Congress both have withdrawn from the arena. PDP and BJP, with 28 and 25 seats respectively in their kitty are in the fray.

Their official spokesmen say the leaders are hammering out differences on forming coalition. They are optimistic about the outcome. But they keep cards close to their chest.

Ideologically PDP and BJP are at opposite poles. Congress and Indian Left have jointly painted BJP in right wing Hindu colour while PDP is born from the womb of Kashmir militancy. BJP’s ideology draws energy from Hindu nationalism and ‘Mother India’ symbol while PDP is tormented by combination of at least three streams of megalomania viz, Islamic (ummah) identity, pro-Pak proclivity and hazy freedom (aazaadi).

Neither of the two fought assembly election with any seriously considered and meticulously chalked out agenda for economic development of the State. PDP’s campaigning was motivated by vendetta against its political rival, namely National Conference, whereas BJP aspired to make a foothold in the valley forcing Congress to rub its nose in dust. The former succeeded but the latter was made to eat the humble pie.

BJP had floated a strong campaigning team of its activists in the valley. Although the team conducted the campaign in low key as part of its strategy, yet in closed circles it exuded optimism, which, however, proved false at any rate and grossly mislead party’s Kashmir think-tank.

Massive success for BJP in Jammu region was correctly anticipated for two reasons. One was the long time internal bickering in the local BJP party which had led to its defamation and the second was the Modi wave riding the crest. The die was cast on the day when BJP mandate was denied to traditional saffronites in Jammu and a new and young team was inducted into the party.

BJP could not win a single seat in Kashmir valley. It will be reminded that all the three valley-based mainstream regional parties ganged up and recklessly resolved not to allow BJP a foothold in Kashmir. The day PDP, NC and Congress made this resolve they brazenly sowed the seeds of regionalism in contemporary Kashmir politics. Political commentators lost no time in prophesying a complicated and ruinous course for Kashmir politics.

The logjam in coalition talks between PDP and BJP is in essence manifestation of regional propensity rather than disagreement on modus operandi of power sharing process in coalition structure.

Again it is not the cut and dried economic agenda for the State and a futuristic vision that drive the interlocutors in conducting bilateral negotiations. What drives them are hidden aspirations carefully reflected in diplomatic idiom that is more equivocal than subtle. Broad national vision has become a casualty.

PDP’s approach to any coalition formula is prejudiced by its ideological proximity to separatist agenda. In addition, it is severely conditioned by covert and overt commitments made to so-called freedom fighting brigades. Therefore bidding time suits its long term strategy for political power.

As against this, BJP revels in its success in Jammu and would want to draw as much of mileage as possible from it. In its impetuous urge to stay in power, BJP is unwisely ignoring the nuances of the situation in which it will place itself.

In the first place, are BJP interlocutors aware that dilution of its patently uncompromising stance on Kashmir jinx in a bid to be coalition partners will mean crisis of sorts in the national mainstream party. How will it insulate its eroding credibility? A good percentage of parliamentary votes fell in BJP’s kitty because of its patent stance on Kashmir issue.

Secondly, does BJP ever take into consideration the consequence of clash of interests that will become the recurring story of a coalition government where the clash is ideological and not temporal? BJP in government will be giving a handle to the separatists and secessionists to raise the bogey of Hindu domination even on most rational and secular issues, which its coalition partner will exploit to the hilt. I am alarmed that such a situation may corner BJP and then out of frustration the only option left to it will be to raise the slogan of trifurcation of the State. Does that serve national interests?

BJP should be candid enough to concede that its failure to respond to the promise of centrally administered region for Ladakh made to the Ldakhis backfired and it could not win even one out of four assembly seats in Ladakh and Kargil whereas it had won the lone parliamentary seat with considerable winning margin.

Prudence demands that BJP should have declined to be in the fray for forming government in J&K and should have remained content with its place on opposition benches in the assembly. Would BJP with 25+2 seats be more powerful while sitting in opposition or on treasury benches? BJP Kashmir think-tank should find an answer.

BJP should also examine the conditions in which PDP pulled the rug under the feet of Congress when there was PDP-Congress coalition government in the State. If that happens in the case of BJP-PDP coalition, the result will be that PDP becomes much stronger while BJP will be face to face with crisis in the State especially in Jammu.

If BJP decides to sit in opposition, it need not link it up with the calculus of winners and losers. It is not that calculus which works; strategy works. Be the king makers not the kings is the old axiom.

Yes in such a situation, three valley-based regional parties (NC, PDP and Congress) are expected to translate their anti-BJP animus into practicality whenever the occasion arises in the Assembly to debate a contentious issue. BJP in opposition should not get jittery about it. The scope of their disagreement on many other issues should not be ruled out. In such a situation, opposition will have the last word.

Why did BJP decline forming government in the last but one Delhi Assembly election? What was the guiding principle and how that principle does not sit well in the case of J&K assembly elections? For BJP it is a moment of introspection. A party that comes under the pressure of successful parliamentarians to form the government willy-nilly even at the cost of sacrificing basic party line is beset with intransigence highly detrimental to national interests.

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