Countering Anti Incumbency

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As J&K’s opposition parties are hoping the anti-incumbency against the ruling coalition and a possible Modi factor will help them become powerful, NC and Congress seem to be using treasury to make the last one effort, reports R S Gull

Electronic-Voting-Machines-EVMAlmost half a year ago, the man in J&K’s hot seat was not so sure that situation on ground can be supportive for the second inning, those close to the corridors of power believe. Then the idea was to have a pre-poll alliance and encourage Congress to stay in the driver’s seat to keep the angry opposition at bay. There was willingness to even extend unconditional outside support to Congress, to prevent a ‘re-marriage’ between PDP and Congress.

 “It is no more there,” says a one-young man who claims he knows things inside out. “The situation is not so negative for us (read NC).” The solace is the “huge interest” that the creation of new administrative units generated across the state. “There are people happy over what they got and there are people unhappy over they did not get and feel ignored,” the young man said. “Now the only issue is can this conflict and the visible involvement be translated into votes?” In state’s echelons of power, the debate is raging: how to neutralize hate with a bait and then make room to seek a new mandate?

But the creation of 669 new administrative units, in addition to the new patwar halqas, is not the only thing that the ruling coalition is attempting to get itself into the election mode. Of the five points that make the new doctrine, creation of administrative units is just one.

People are unwilling to accept Ghulam Nabi Azad’s decision to create four medical colleges across the state has had its own impact. There were two parameters that exhibited a sort of response to it. One was the money that went into the “thanks” advertisements which the Jammu newspapers earned handsomely. Second was the ruckus in the state legislature when almost every lawmaker spoke in favour of a medical college in his area. When finally the demands were clubbed, it seemed as if every block was seeking a medical college on the pattern they have been seeking primary schools and primary health centres. It moved even the Speaker who said the demand should not become ridicule.

But the house put a strong demand in favour of a medical college for Pir Panchal valley. And the political grapevine suggests Azad is ready to oblige. They say he is about to make an announcement for a fifth college in Rajouri.

Congress in Jammu has already gone with hammer and tongs over the 73rd amendment that Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has agreed to do in an apparent quid pro quo in the administrative unit’s issue. The party workers have gone to their support base and packaged it. The internal interactions have started conveying that the inclusion of the amendment – that was earlier opposed by NC publicly, for the sake of state’s autonomy marks the beginning of eroding this plank.

Congress sees it a huge development because they have helped NC to play the ball for a long time and create a situation suggesting that J&K’s autonomy will devour if this happens. Now Congress has the promise in its hand and is going to the Modi-impacted electorate suggesting that “we can do it much faster and in pretty sophisticated way than BJP thinks it ever can do”. But will this argument over the legal infrastructure of the state help counter Modi in Dogra hotland? It remains to be seen.

After joining PDP formally, the erstwhile trade union leader Khursheed Aalam is history in the employees-rights-movement right now. There is a huge gulf now. Ruling NC is filling it with the exciting announcement of increasing the retirement age of employees to 60, up by two years.

In order to ensure the unemployed youth do not take it negatively, the age of eligibility for a government job is expected to go to 39 now. Youth can now study, earn, raise families and grey in the secretariat office.

Insiders suggest the announcement is ready. Chief Minister can refer to it, if not make it formal, while seeking votes for the grants of his ministry on Saturday. Right now there is only one problem: most of the employees want the announcement in the middle of 2014 summer. The reason: they want the people who have aged enough to go home and make bigger, decisive positions available for the new crop. Any announcement at this stage can trigger an adverse reaction. The government is gauging the mood to make it happen.

Indications suggest that many things will be happening after the Lok Sabha elections will be over. On top of the agenda is the recruitment. There are around 80,000 positions vacant and a series of retirements in next three months may add up another 10,000. The idea is fast recruitment’s of 100 thousand youth. It will include most of the 10,000 positions that the new administrative units require. Though the government has skipped setting aside any money for the new units, it still will go with the idea of recruiting more.

In the worst case scenario, if all this fails to fight the anti-incumbency, it still can give hope. The new government will get literally buried under the initiatives of the incumbent regime, for which there is not much in the coffers. It can trigger such a cascading negative effect that can limit the new regime from exercising its doctrine, if any.

Statecraft was an art first. It later became science. It is now reduced to statistics: numbers in assembly, numbers in the clerical halls and numbers in the queue. Long live democracy!

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