As elections to the Lok Sabha and the state assembly are likely to be held by March this year in Jammu and Kashmir, political parties are engaged in hectic efforts to attract voters — like making promises of employment, development, regional autonomy, corruption free governance and accountability…writes Sheikh Qayoom
State governor, Satya Pal Malik and Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh have said things are in place for the Lok Sabha and assembly elections as they wait for the final nod from the Election Commission.
So-called loyalists flying the coop looking for greener pastures, assertion of regional identities, wooing retired and serving civil servants are making headlines.
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) headed by former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti is battling an internal crisis.
Some senior leaders of the PDP have already left the party blaming Mehbooba Mufti of having messed up her act.
Ironically, all the present dissidents had stayed put with her till she lost power in June last year when the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) suddenly pulled out of the ruling coalition.
Three of her former cabinet ministers, including Imran Razia Ansari, Syed Basharat Bukhari and Javaid Mustafa Mir, left the PDP blaming Mehbooba of ignoring their advice while she was in power.
“It had become a family affair. Close relatives of the former Chief Minister were the only ones who had access to her. She seemed to have insulated herself from every senior party leader except those who remained loyal sycophants and brought the PDP to this disaster”, said a former PDP.
While the senior Shia leader, Imran Razia Ansari, joined the Peoples Conference (PC) headed by Sajad Lone, Syed Basharat Bukhari has joined the regional National Conference (NC).
Only Javaid Mustafa Mir is yet to announce his future political course.
The PDP’s misfortune has come in handy for the NC, whose president Dr. Farooq Abdullah, and Vice President, Omar Abdullah, have focused their political campaign on the “disaster the PDP brought to the state by aligning with the BJP”.
However, the NC and the PDP remain front-runners for the forthcoming elections in the Valley.
Efforts by Sajad Lone to create a third front as a viable alternative to the NC and PDP did attract dissidents from the PDP, but the possibility of such a front becoming a real challenge to the NC and the PDP seems to be distant, at least for the present.
Retired police officers and former bureaucrats joining the NC has not generated so much debate as the resignation by Shah Faesal, the 2009 batch IAS topper.
Faesal tendered his resignation from the coveted service asserting that his decision was a small act of defiance against the continuing killings in Kashmir and the failure of the central government to take the much needed initiative for the state “to come out of its present imbroglio”.
He, however, maintained that since he had been part of the system, his decision to join politics is aimed at changing the system from within and not by opposing it from outside.
He said his belief in electoral democracy was strong despite the fact that it was fast becoming irrelevant in the conflict that plagues the state.
Reports said he would join the NC, which would field him from the north Kashmir Baramulla Lok Sabha constituency.
Later statements by Shah Faesal indicate that he is yet to make up his mind whether to fight as an independent or do so by joining the NC.
He said clearly that the people of Kashmir are yet to accept the ‘idea of India’.
Bitten as the common Kashmiri is by past promises and selling of lofty dreams, cynics have started saying that Shah Faesal’s entry into politics is yet another Indian plan to legitimize its democratic credentials in Kashmir.
What baffles logic is the fact that in the 2014 elections the PDP won 28 assembly seats and contained the NC to 15 in the 87-member state assembly by projecting the failures of the NC government.
In 2019, ironically, the NC appears determined to give a taste of its own medicine by highlighting the failures of the PDP government that could not even complete its mandated six-year term in office.
The civilian killings in 2010 during the NC regime were the hallmarks of the PDP’s political discourse in 2014.
This year, the civilian killings in 2016 in the aftermath of Hizbul commander, Burhan Wani’s death, have become the central point of NC’s political discourse.
The two arch rivals are feverishly highlighting their commitment to safeguard the state’s special status by stonewalling any tinkering with article 35-A of the state’s constitution.
In the Jammu region, the discourse by the BJP is diametrically opposed to what catches the common Kashmiri’s imagination in the Valley.
The right-wing BJP asserts that the final solution to the political and security instability in the state lies in complete abrogation of article 370 that gives a unique and often “confusing status to J&K in the union of Indian states”.
The Congress party hopes to do better in 2019, especially in the Jammu region, where according to G.A.Mir, the state party president, “the BJP’s pipe dream of Make in India has been completing exposed”.
Day in and day out, political parties in the state claim strengthening of their political base by more and more influential people joining them.
Yet, given the divergence of interests between Jammu, the Valley and the Ladakh region, it is highly unlikely that any single party would get the magic figure of 44 out of 87 assembly seats to claim a simple majority in 2019.
Whatever the individual fate of the NC and the PDP in the forthcoming Lok Sabha and assembly elections, one conclusion that is foregone is that the days of single party rule in J&K are over.
If the NC emerges as the single largest party in 2019 assembly elections, it would have to seek an alliance partner.
If by any chance the Congress does not get sufficient seats to sit in coalition with the NC, would the NC go the PDP way by aligning with the BJP?
Dr.Abdullah and Omar Abdullah vehemently said: “Never”.
Despite political grandstanding by the NC, An old maxim, never say never in politics holds good in Kashmir as it does in the rest of the country.