J&K: PDP has the option of going with Congress and NC
The alliance would be considered as the domination of Kashmir Valley over the politics of J&K.
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In the last two days, the PDP and the BJP leaders have separately met NN Vohra, the governor of Jammu and Kashmir, for talks about government formation in the state. Both the parties want to be in the power though there is no decision between the two on an alliance yet. The PDP sent feelers to the BJP for forming an alliance by praising former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s approach towards Kashmir imbroglio which was welcomed by the BJP. At the same time, the NC has offered unconditional support to the PDP. The Congress party is desperate to be part of the government and has invoked "secularism" to keep the "communal" BJP away from power. In the coming days, hopefully, the deadlock over government formation will be broken.
As per the mandate, the BJP and the PDP should form the government in Jammu and Kashmir as people voted against the NC and the Congress. However, if no consensus is achieved between the BJP and the PDP, the PDP has an option to go with the NC and the Congress while the BJP will sit in Opposition. That alliance would be considered as the domination of Kashmir Valley over the politics of J&K which has been the case in the state. Since the accession of Jammu and Kashmir to Union of India in 1947, the Valley has controlled the political scene in the state. Except Ghulam Nabi Azad’s nearly three years stint as chief minister from November 2005 to July 2008, the chief minister of the state has always been from the Kashmir region.
Perhaps, this is for the first time in the history of Jammu and Kashmir that hegemony of Kashmir over the politics of entire state has been challenged so audaciously. The credit goes to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for their "Mission 44+" campaign. The party was aspiring to form the government of its own in the troubled state of Jammu and Kashmir for the first time. The party campaigned in full force in the Valley and banked on displaced Kashmiri Pandit votes. The BJP softened its stand on abrogation of Article 370 of the Indian Constitution which grants special status to Jammu and Kashmir.
There were contrary views from the party on this issue. BJP’s candidate from Amirakadal constituency of Srinagar, Dr Hina Shafi Bhat, grabbed media attention the most with her comments about Article 370. She said that she will be the first one to pick the gun if there is an attempt made to abrogate Article 370. She even alleged the rigging in elections in Kashmir. BJP’s campaigning was so strong that Dr Mehboob Beig, who quitted the National Conference and openly supported PDP, remarked that BJP’s Yalgaar could be stopped by only one person in the Valley and that is Mufti Mohammad Sayeed. However, "Mission 44+" was not achieved as the party couldn’t get even a single seat in Kashmir region. Also, the party surprisingly couldn’t win in Ladakh region which has four assembly seats of Leh, Kargil, Zanskar and Nubra.
These elections marginalised the separatist voices of Kashmir valley as people voted out in large numbers. In this election, Sajjad Gani Lone who is a separatist-turned-mainstream politician tried his luck and won from Handwara constituency of North Kashmir. His party won two seats in these Assembly elections. The irony is that his brother is a member of separatist organisation Hurriyat Conference and he is married to a Pakistani who is the daughter of Amanullah Khan, founder of Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front.
It is said that high voter turnout was because of the fear of Hindu CM in the state and preventing the BJP from winning in the Valley. Even if Kashmiris voted out to keep the BJP out of the Valley, their participation in democratic process is a success. However, it should not be inferred that separatist voices have totally been rejected. That would be stupidity but overall such high voter turnout of 65 per cent is a step towards the mainstream.
The election results exhibited regional as well as religious polarisation with Jammu region majorly voting for the BJP while Kashmir region for the PDP. Ladakh surprisingly voted for the Congress party which bagged three out of four Assembly seats in the region.
The fractured mandate of Jammu and Kashmir illustrates the divergent political aspirations of the state. We have witnessed that in 2008 during Amarnath agitation and 2010 summer unrest. It should not be forgotten that the religion (read Islam) forms the basis of Jammu and Kashmir conflict which cannot be ignored.
As the political parties are busy in number games and discussions to form government in Jammu and Kashmir, it won’t be inappropriate to think and debate on the political reorganisation of the state. The three regions of state differ culturally, geographically, linguistically and politically. Statehood for Jammu region has been voiced many times. In case, the BJP doesn’t become part of the new government in J&K, it will add fuel to the debate over political reorganisation of the state. Union territory status for Ladakh has been demanded so as to end the abandonment of this particular region of the state.
Is trifurcation of Jammu and Kashmir state the solution to address the regional imbalance? In the past, the Centre's interlocutors — Dileep Padgaonkar, Radha Kumar, and MM Ansari — have recommended creation of three regional councils, one each for Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh, with legislative, executive and financial powers.
For the displaced community of Kashmiri Pandits, some Pandits advocate the creation of separate homeland to be carved out of present Kashmir. The cause of separate homeland is championed by organisation named Panun Kashmir which recently commemorated "Homeland Day" in New Delhi on December 28, 2014. If their demand is taken into account, then it would lead to quadrification of the Jammu & Kashmir state — Jammu, Kashmir, Ladakh and Panun Kashmir. However, not all displaced Kashmiri Pandits favour that formula of separate homeland in Kashmir for reversal of their exodus which occurred in 1990.
Whichever political parties join hands to form the government in Jammu and Kashmir, the regional imbalance in the state should be seriously addressed. Is division of the J&K state an answer? Let there be a debate over it.