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Mainstream, VOL LVI No 33 New Delhi August 4, 2018

Of Democracy, Elections and Mainstream Politics in Kashmir

Tuesday 7 August 2018

by Javid Ahmad Ahanger

The unceremonious fall of the PDP-BJP coalition in Jammu and Kashmir was aptly described by the distinguished academician Amitabh Mattoo as follows: “New Delhi has faulted once again in Kashmir. The chaos, noise, and messiness of democracy are always an option to be preferred over bureaucratic rule.” (IE, June 22, 2018) Obviously, the PDP is only the latest victim of New Delhi’s Kashmir policy. The unholy coalition collapsed as a result of political opportunism. After all, both the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and People’s Democratic Party (PDP) were “partners in crime”. The PDP was ditched not by the BJP, but by its own political stalwarts and hunger for power or what journalist Gowhar Geelani writes in his Facebook post,”The party is not a victim of any betrayal. It is, by its own admission, a ‘partner in crime’.” The coalition ended with the imposition of Governors’ Rule in the State. The news spread like wildfire on social networking sites followed by a furious debate revolving around whether the Centre will go for new elections or continue with the notorious Governor’s Rule.

As expected National Conference Vice-President Omar Abdullah wasted no time to reach Raj Bhavan and maintained his party’s position for making favourable conditions for the democratic process. Obviously, the NC reiterated its demand to dissolve the Assembly and create favourable conditions for new elections. Why is the NC in a hurry to go for polls despite knowing the ground realities? The dynastic party is desperate to ride on the wave of anti-incumbency and general disillusionment with the PDP in the Valley for its sell-out to the BJP after the 2014 mandate.

The Indian National Congress (INC) too is playing a soft approach; as the party has been playing since its early saboteur adventures in the State and other small mainstream groups toe the line.

The PDP has stakes in prolonging the new elections for two reasons: first, fully conscious of its misrule and breach of public trust by making alliance with its ideological rival that caused huge disillusionment in the Valley and this has already jeopardised the party’s chances of an electoral success. It therefore wants time to help erase from public memory the agony that its power-driven alliance with the BJP caused. The fear of anti-incumbency forces Mufti’s party to prefer prolonged Centre’s rule to an elected government. Second, it wants the cycle of violence to continue so that its repressive policies look relatively less repressive in compassion to the Centre’s rule. In the tragic electoral politics of Kashmir comparisons are made not for positive reasons of development but over issues of who killed lesser number of civilians and who blinded few less children. The PDP would downplay the NC for it killed less number of people than the NC killed during 2010, and so on. This is precisely why the PDP would convince the Governor to postpone elections.

In the meanwhile, so-called political pundits would keep themselves busy with television debates to earn their livelihood. The political narratives around nationalism and anti-nationalism will be constructed and deconstructed by every political party and observer. Everyone will blame one another for the wrong doings of the past. But no one would take the responsibility of the past blunders. People will watch war before elections on television screens and social media. Thus the corporate media and Indian state will create a perception to choose one among the two dynastic regimes. After all, coalition politics has become norm of the last one-and-a-half decade in Kashmir since 2002. The PDP-Congress, NC-Congress or BJP-Others will be in an open fray to reclaim power in the State. Despite all having blood on their hands, they will still prefer to go the public to get the odd sympathy.

There would be call from the All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC) to boycott the elections that will be fully endorsed by the militant ranks headed by the United Jihad Council (UJC). They too have their own strong reasons to call for boycott. But the drama of elections would again be played in the political corridors of Kashmir. New Delhi will be happy if an elected government is installed in Kashmir to save its ugly face of Democracy from the world community; as they did in the past in 1996 when the NC under Farooq Abdullah saved Indian dignity by giving life to mainstream politics from the ashes.

As an ordinary Kashmiri, what should be my response and reaction? My answer can never be in the affirmative. Why should I care about these elections that are arranged 600 kms away from Kashmir in the South Block of New Delhi under a well-planned mission? History is witness to this fact how New Delhi used its proxies to legitimise its claims on the territory. In his Facebook post Dr Aijaz Ashraf Wani (Professor, Political Science University of Kashmir) has rightly observed about the fall of PDP-BJP coalition as, “This is how New-Delhi deals with its ‘Chaprassies’... always!!” Kashmir has seen many rulers from the Sheikh Dynasty to Mufti’s Mehbooba. In fact none among them was a real representative of the people. Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah was made emergency head in 1948 and was later installed Prime Minister of the State not by the people but by Maharaja Hari Singh on the recommendation of Pandit Nehru. So were Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad, G.M. Sadiq and Mir Qasim. Later leaders fell in the same category. This renowned economist Meghnad Desai in his recent article in Indian Express calls “Guided Democracy”. (IE, June 29, 2018)

Yes, the political parties and ideological groups of mainstream in Jammu and Kashmir are doing best to legitimise their claims on power. The obnoxious underbelly of the Right-wing BJP’s dangerous political culture cannot be separated from the reality in Kashmir today. The political descendants of the Praja Parishad and Jana Sangh have found their political heir in the BJP and its sympathisers. In fact it is the BJP’s cynical calculation about the Parliament elections of 2019 that it cannot afford to be seen as soft on minorities in India and Kashmiris in particular. The major problem with the policy-makers of New Delhi and political leadership is that both see Kashmir through the prism of security paradigm and Islamophobia and reject the ground realities of the Kashmir conflict. The hasty but an expected decision of the BJP to withdraw support to its coalition after three-and-a-half years reminds me of what noted political commentator A.G. Noorani observed: “Mufti will be in chair not in power.” But the hard fact is: none was in power since Sheikh Abdullah pushed this nation in the lap of India and sealed our fate.

The author is a Doctoral Fellow, Department of Political Science, Aligarh Muslim University. He can be contacted at e-mail: ahanger.javid786[at]gmail.com

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