J&K Assembly Elections

By K.N. Pandit

Behind this argument lies the fallacy that elections mean legitimizing Indian presence in the state.

Election Commission is about to declare the dates of election in Jammu and Kashmir despite the separatists, PDP and NC demanding deferment.

In the beginning Congress showed signs of vacillation but now it appears to have recovered its confidence.

Those demanding deferment till political climate of the state becomes conducive argue that memories of recent upheaval in the valley are still fresh in the minds of the people. Behind this argument lies the fallacy that elections mean legitimizing Indian presence in the state. 

Separatist groups including both factions of Hurriyat and their collaborators are averse to a democratic dispensation under Indian Constitutional provisions. Hence, their denouncing of November elections under one pretext or the other is not unexpected.

But two mainstream political parties, PDP and NC, are ostensibly on the horns of dilemma. This situation is one which they created for themselves.

Not participating in the elections means leaving the field open for others to grab power. That will leave them no space even to function as formal opposition group in the assembly — something unthinkable for them.

PDP patron has remained tight-lipped on the issue after his return from the US. Its garrulous chairperson, too, has maintained silence thus facing the embarrassing question of to be or not to be. Nevertheless rumblings within the party on the issue are become louder day by day.

After some vacillation National Conference patron has toned down his ire considerably. He got a wind that Congress was inclined to stick to the schedule for assembly elections in J&K.

Its re-thinking can throw up the option of a Congress-NC alliance, a grouping that has its past history albeit not very encouraging.  Having gone through the nightmare of recent protests in Jammu and Srinagar, both may begin their relationship with a clan slate. PCC has hinted at dropping “tainted” leaders of the party and creating space for younger workers. Induction of Saifu’d-Din Soz as PCC chief  at a point of time when the term of Ghulam Nabi Azad-led government was about to complete its tenure, was a clear indication that the pilot and his main oarsmen had to be dropped.

PDP will have to stop hurling threats and diatribe if it wants to play a constructive role.  It has to understand that the aftermath of land row has sealed the option of hunting with the hound and running with the hare. Issuing hollow threats is a sign of frustration.

Separatists and secessionists, too, are not a compact group.  Ali Shah Geelani tried to project himself as the leader of the masses but it is unlikely to work. Sharp differences remain.

National Conference is bogged with the younger segment of its leadership drifting away from its traditional policy. This faction’s interpretation of “Kashmir nationalism” differs from party’s traditional interpretation. Omar Abdullah’s immature statement in the parliament on Amarnath land row was meant to play down the traditional leadership of the party but Farooq Abdullah quickly realized the magnitude of the damage it did, and sought to control it. Thereafter, he handled the situation with more caution and pragmatic statesmanship. How far will his new posture help retrieve National Conference in Jammu and Srinagar remains to be seen.

PDP is not without the din of internal dissension. Its constituency has shrunk after its dubious role in land deal case.

Finally, BJP’s electioneering will remain limited to Jammu province because of massive anti-BJP propaganda unleashed by almost all other mainstream political parties in the valley to malign it.

Considering Sangharsh Samiti’s secular and non–partisan conduct of Jammu agitation, which threw the three mainstream political parties in a state of dilemma, the BJP stands to gain considerably in the forthcoming elections. If it is able to capture 20 to 23 seats, that would form a solid opposition in the assembly. Much depends on what will be its election manifesto, and to what extent will that reflect achievable aspirations of the people of Jammu region.
(The writer is the former director of Central Asian Studies, Kashmir University).

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