by Masood Hussain
Narendra Modi’s victory in the just-concluded Lok Sabha elections is not an ordinary one. It is a landslide victory as the rightwing party improved its 2014 tally. In the new Lok Sabha, the BJP has 303 of 542 berths, which means more than 55 per cent. Compared to Congress, BJP is six times bigger. In five years, its vote share improved from 31 to more than 37 per cent.
Political pundits in Delhi insist that the NDA that has numerically grown to 352 in comparison to the Congress-centric UPA having 96 seats has the capacity to manage as many as 400 votes in support of its interventions. That makes Modi a tiger in Indian politics.
It is not the mere size of the victory that is huge. It is the spread of the victory that is more important and the single most distinction to Modi’s return to power. Earlier, the Sangh Parivar was seen as a political force in the north India region, the so-called cow-belt. But this election has changed that situation to a larger extent as BJP has voters, supporters and power in East and West too. In the south, however, the numbers remained too little. But managing such a huge shift in five years is not an ordinary feat. BJP is no more a Hindi heartland story as it has managed a bigger spread. It will have plans to get into South India where it still faces resistance.
This essentially means that Modi’s BJP has certainly destroyed the caste-based political arithmetic in India. It has taken political engagement to a new level where it discovered and positively implemented the new rules of engagement and political cohesion. This, the BJP did without making an attempt to seek votes from the minorities, especially Muslims.
How will this landslide mandate change the world’s most populous democracy would require a close watch for almost a year, maybe more. Since the mandate speaks of a sort of nationalistic assertion, in coming days the Modi regime will discover its own rules of engagement, and disengagement. It has the mandate of redefining the political value system, rediscovering or even investing the sacred and profane of Indian politics to suit its vote bank. Will it lead to the undoing of the 42nd Amendment made to the Constitution of India that made post-emergency India a secular country in 1976? Will India finally have an official religion? Will India like to follow the American system of governance and change the parliamentary democracy to the presidential form? These are questions that are being debated in the secular stakeholders quarters these days.
As if the shadows were cast by the coming events, this Ramzan, already half over, did not witness any Iftaar party in the capital. Routine was that Prime Minister, Home Minister and the External Affairs Minister would host the Iftaar parties, which usually were networking events, sort of melting pots where diversity of people and ideas would flow.
Was it because of the ongoing elections or the bhashans being telecast live is not known? What is already known is that in 542-seat Lok Sabha, there will be 26 Muslims also present, a number that is slightly improved than 2014 when there were only 23 Muslim MPs.
In the case of Kashmir, however, the story is slightly different. It is partly because Kashmir is perhaps the only agenda point that has survived on Sangh agenda for seven decades now. In the just concluded election, it was over-emphasis on Kashmir that played in the ruling party campaigning. Kashmir is the mother territory of India’s security, diplomatic and defence policymaking to a large extent. So the over-emphasis on security issues – between Pulwama and Balakot, meant it was all hovering around Kashmir.
Even though Jammu paved the way for Nagpur to become the Sangh’s headquarter, Jammu and Kashmir’s winter capital is going to be more important in coming days. One of the most vital priorities for the new dispensation in Delhi is to have a Jammu leader for Jammu and Kashmir. They have their own arguments: If minority Muslims like Abdul Rehman Antulay, Anwara Taimur CH Mohammed Koya can become Chief Ministers’ of Hindu majority states of Maharashtra, Assam and Kerala, why there is an unwritten principle that a Jammu Hindu cannot become the Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister. In Dr Jitendra Singh Raina, BJP has an English-speaking orator who, as the recent election proved, is extremely popular with his vote bank. He retained the Udhampur constituency that also represents the Chenab Valley, Jammu’s own Chotta Kashmir. Singh bagged 724311 (61.38 per cent) of 1180123 polled votes.
But for making that kind of an effort, an election to the state assembly is a must. An assembly election has been in waiting since June 2018 when the BJP pulled the rugs from under Mehbooba Mufti’s feet pushing the state into Delhi’s remote rule. When the Lok Sabha elections were being discussed, Kashmir’s political class was struggling to convince the poll managers and Delhi policymakers that they should hold the two polls simultaneously. Initially, even the top men were convinced but at the last moment, the state BJP unit prevailed and the two elections were de-linked.
Now everybody in Jammu and Kashmir is asking one simple question: will the elections to the state assembly take place in 2019? A general impression is that BJP has an agenda in hand and it wants to do certain spadework before an elected government assumes office. Then it wants to have a friendly regime in the state that can ratify those things. If those interventions – nobody knows what – are affected by a Jammu Chief Minister, BJPs third term in a row is unstoppable, goes the thought process.
Is the agenda about rolling back Article 370 and Article 35A? Is the agenda about removing the freeze on the delimitation of the state assembly constituencies to get a few seats more to Jammu so that numbers between Kashmir and Jammu are balanced? Or is using the 24 seats, fully or partially, of the state assembly – set aside for Pakistan administrated Kashmir, to be filled by the displaced people who are living in Jammu, Poonch, Rajouri and other places a priority? Nobody knows which Sangh priority is going to fall in the governor Satya Pal Malik’s most important assignments in coming days.
But one thing is sure that whatever intervention, the BJP government will like to have in Jammu and Kashmir will be resisted. The NC and PDP are already in an informal alliance. There is a likelihood of all other parties actually becoming supportive of any broad consensus that involves issues of constitutional relationship and demography. This has the potential of a serious tension that can even force a trifurcation of the state.
It is very difficult to foretell what Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s priorities are on Kashmir. Last time, he rebuffed his ally, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed publicly for suggesting certain measures on bilateral (with Pakistan) front. His first five-year term in office was very challenging for reporters to get details of a story unless the Sangh decided to reveal it voluntarily. No forecasting on governance front when Modi is on the hot seat.
But one thing is quite visible and apparent. Modi has extremely important and a landslide mandate. It gives him the choice to decide and not a compulsion to toe a line. It is his wisdom that will decide whether he will use the mandate for leading India to an all-inclusive democracy or an exclusive society. Only he has the mandate to decide if India can be a big brother in the region or a peacemaker. The people of India have given him the right to decide whether secular India is all right – as the source of all the idea battles or India needs to assert its Hindu nationalist identity.
In all these cases, the routes of decision pass through Kashmir. Even if, Modi may not touch the status quo, Kashmir will not remain untouched. This is going to be the first acid test for a BJP that is now a pan-India party. Not Nagpur, Kashmir will be Sangh’s Karamboomi.