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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2646

J&K At Cross Roads

By Atul Cowshis - Syndicate Features

In dissolving the state assembly just when political ‘foes’ had come together to stake claim for forming government, Jammu and Kashmir governor, Satya Pal Malik, did not exactly work in defence of democracy. What is more, his action may well have pushed the already troubled state towards more unrest and chaos.

None of the reasons he stated for his decision to dissolve the state assembly were sound. The Opposition was not wrong in accusing the governor of doing the bidding of the party in power in faraway Delhi. It was yet another example of the BJP doing something that it had regularly criticised as an Opposition party. Many recalled that Malik had stated after taking over as the governor that he was not in favour of dissolution of the state assembly.

He prematurely ended the life of the assembly to, among other things, prevent ‘horse trading’ and wanted ‘stability’ in the state, perhaps overlooking the fact that the saffron party is widely suspected to have started ‘horse trading’ by trying to wean away legislators from the PDP. The BJP appeared keen to see Sajjad Lone of the People’s Conference (which has one more member in the house) installed as the chief minister though he did not have the numbers. He had claimed support of the 28-member BJP and 18 ‘others’ without producing any supporting evidence or document to claim majority in the 87-member Jammu and Kashmir assembly. As against this, the PDP-NC-Congress combine had the clear support of 56 members.

The BJP, in fact, lost no time in muddying the waters by alleging that the parties which were staking a claim for forming the government were receiving instructions from Pakistan. Ram Madhav, the RSS man ‘loaned’ to the BJP, who made that allegation, confirmed a widely held belief that the saffron party resorts to irresponsible statements when it cannot defend its acts.

The BJP is unable to stop exposure of its convoluted use of the Pakistan card; it had to take back its words, though not with any grace, after accusing the former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, of joining a ‘Pakistani conspiracy’ to oust the BJP from power.

A day after the controversial dissolution of the Jammu and Kashmir assembly, the union cabinet approved the ‘Kartarpur corridor’ which will provide access to Sikh devout to visit the Kartarpur gurdwara on the Pakistani side of the international border. Only weeks earlier, the BJP was calling Navjot Singh Sidhu, ex-cricketer and now a minister in Punjab, a ‘Pakistani’ for seeking support of Pakistanis for the Kartarpur corridor.

Unless there is a tectonic shift in the political landscape of the state, not many will bet on political stability after the next state assembly polls by May next year. The uneasy trio of the PDP, NC and the Congress, is going to contest the assembly polls separately and the BJP will contest on the strength of its ‘nationalist’ and Hindutva credentials. The almost certain four-way split of votes is no assurance of a clear majority nor does it indicate stability.

However, it is reasonable to expect that the PDP-NC-Congress triad, if given a chance, would not have wrecked their coalition if only to keep their powerful adversary, BJP, away. These three parties do have some meeting point and would not have functioned the way the PDP-BJP coalition did.

A question will be asked that if the political players are going to stick to their separate ways now that the assembly has been dissolved how was the governor wrong in raising the point of stability if he had allowed them to form the government in Jammu and Kashmir? The answer is simple. The best way to determine the stability of a government is a floor test, as the Supreme Court had said in a ‘historical’ judgement two decades back.

Governor Malik, a BJP nominee, was not qualified to comment on the ‘opposing’ ideologies of the parties that were willing to come together to form the government in the state. For about two years, Jammu and Kashmir was ruled by a very manifestly uneasy and unnatural coalition of the PDP and the BJP. There cannot be two more antagonistic parties than the PDP and the BJP in Jammu and Kashmir.

Worse, the PDP-BJP government showed conclusively that they cannot overcome their differences to at least maintain a façade of smooth coalition for the sake of governance. If anything, the BJP moved farther away from the PDP when some of its ministers and leaders from the Jammu region competed with each other in sounding like leaders of the majority community in the Jammu region and some of their statements implied that they suspected the ‘patriotism’ of their alliance partner.

Being in power at the Centre, the BJP was expected to show more maturity and co-exist with the PDP for the good of the state more since the situation started has started worsening. Will it be wrong to say that the PDP-BJP alliance was stitched up by the BJP merely to be part of the state government for the first time in free India’s history?

The alliance of three ‘opposing’ parties—the PDP, NC and the Congress—will also be called opportunistic since they do have differences though to some extent due to dynastic considerations. But there is an important difference between the PDP and the BJP entering into an alliance and the trio of the PDP, NC and the Congress presenting a joint front to form the government.

The PDP and the BJP were and are ideologically and politically poles apart and have shown no interest in jettisoning their differences—on some very basic issues like special status for the Jammu and Kashmir. The PDP, NC and the Congress are on the same page on that key issue. All three advocate autonomy for the state, though they may not define it in identical terms.

It is clear that there is more room for these three parties to work together than was the case with the PDP-BJP alliance. Given a chance, the PDP-NC-Congress alliance might have functioned more smoothly than did the PDP-BJP duo. Dark clouds are unlikely to disappear from the state even after the assembly polls and that should worry all, including the ruling party.

- Asian Tribune -

J&K At Cross Roads
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