Emerging Scenarios

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With fifth and final phase of state assembly elections over in Jammu and Kashmir the race to interpret the numbers and trends has already begun. Shah Abbas analysis the possible scenarios emerging from the just concluded electoral process

Duz Ha Walai Kotro remained the most popular election song during the campaign by contesting parties, especially in the Srinagar city. But with results soon to be declared, it is the turn of the unionist politicians to sing: Duz Ha Walai Kashreo, Woen Ha Wachai Vare.

All the election phases involving Kashmir are over, and not only those who voted, but the majority of people who did not dance at the tune of democracy, also have their fingers crossed thinking about the election results and possibilities of new government formation.

In the post election scenario, if political pundits are sure about anything, it is that Jammu and Kashmir is once again going to witness a coalition regime. Experts rule out the possibility of any single party rule in a trouble torn Jammu and Kashmir. In an 87 member strong state assembly house, a party has to achieve 44+ to form the government.

Coalition culture is in place since 2002 when People’s Democratic Party (PDP) formed the government just three years after its formation with the support of Indian National Congress with only sixteen seats in their kitty. National Conference that finds its roots to pre-1947 era had never any competition in the state. It virtually ruled J&K with complete authority and impunity. Given the complexity of Kashmir’s politics and its disputed status, NC was viewed as the lone legitimate voice of the people. But that was quite long time ago. With PDP missing from the scene, it was during 1996 elections that NC had absolute majority.

PDP transferred the chief minister ship to Congress after three years as per the agreement (Common Minimum Program). But Congress did not like to support PDP in 2008 elections and extended support to the Omar Abdullah led National Conference (NC). PDP had won 21 seats in 2008, five more than 2002.

Analysts believe that Congress revenged Mufti Mohammad Sayeed for withdrawing support to Ghulam Nabi Azad led government in mid 2008. But there are many who think that Mufti and Azad are grateful to each other because each one of them got a chance to wear the throne of the state. Probably that is why both the leaders time and again term the period – between 2002 and 2008 – as “model”.

But post 2008, the coalition seemed a forced marriage between NC and Congress. Throughout the period coalition partners enjoyed very few months of cordial relationship. Both the parties had started accusing each other for “bad governance” even before the poll process had started.

Knowing the ground realities, both the regional parties, NC and PDP claim to form government on their own. But making high claims is in fact the part of poll campaign. Take for example BJP’s ‘Mission 44+’. The party used every possible means and sources to proliferate its ‘mission’.

On the evening of December 23, when the results will be out, one possibility will be of BJP allying with NC. NC has already an experience of working with the Hindu Nationalist Party, as it was a member of the previous NDA alliance. Omar, the third generation representative of his family, enjoyed MoS berth in Vajpayee led NDA government and most of the analysts term BJP as Omar’s real mentor. It was under BJP government that Omar actually honed his political skills as he was heading a ministry. But now to Omar Abdullah “BJP is untouchable”.

Second workable option is a PDP-BJP alliance which can however surprise most of the analysts from Srinagar to New Delhi. But, “nothing can be ruled out in the power politics,” said Zaffar Ahmad, a political science student adding “the decision makers in PDP know the consequences of remaining out of power for two consecutive terms.  Still a PDP leader told Kashmir Life “alliance with communal forces is out of question.”

Both PDP and NC claim to represent the true identity of Jammu and Kashmir. Then why not get into an alliance and keep national parties like BJP and Congress out of J&K power so that their “national interest” does not impact the state?

But this possibility seems a farfetched dream. However NC and PDP can rope in independent candidates and others who are known as “free floating electrons” in the political lexicon, and are found more in Jammu and Kashmir than in any part of the world.

Some of these “electrons” have been enjoying power without being member of any ruling or major opposition party. But how many such people will succeed this time, is a very important question.

Congress has been the lone Indian national party so far to share power in Jammu and Kashmir either with NC or PDP. The party has in fact been playing role of a ‘King Maker’ ever since 2002, and even winning under twenty seats every time. In last 12 years, if we look closely, it is the Congress that is calling shots in Kashmir even without claiming the top post.

But a national party like Congress has its own compulsion while getting in to an alliance at a state level, that too in a sensitive state like Kashmir. They have to think twice before making any pro-state decisions. There is always fear of backlash from other states or at the centre level while becoming part of key decision making in J&K. Thus becoming hindrance in the development of the state rather than accelerating the process.

But even this “pro-J&K argument” is not enough to persuade PDP and NC to form an alliance.

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On the other hand BJP also dreams of ruling Jammu and Kashmir for the first time. But that cannot happen unless BJP does not partner with any of the two big regional parties: NC and PDP. Getting support from Congress is out of question.

But BJP has an option to rope in support of “free floating electrons”. The party has already done some homework in this regard when it withdrew its candidate in support of Sajad Gani Lone in Handwara. But most of the analysts believe that it might not fulfill the need of the party to accomplish its dream.

So BJP has either to achieve its ‘Mission 44+’ or to forge an alliance with NC or PDP. There is no third option for the party and so is not for both the regional rivals, NC and PDP who have Congress as an option. AICC chief Prof Saif-u-Din Soz recently said that, “we have not fully divorced NC.”

A possibility of a rainbow alliance is also seen by many analysts. In this type of government a regional party or a national party will have to rope in sub-regional forces including “free floating electrons” like Er Rashid, Sajad Lone, G H Mir, Hakim Yasin, M Y Targami and Panter’s Party. But it is only possible if any single party touches 40’s.

Riding on the success of recent Lok Sabah elections in Kashmir region PDP is on its way to claim the crown. Mufti Mohammad Sayeed is its chief ministerial candidate. Omar Abdullah, who deserted his ancestral constituency and contested from his “home” Sonewar and “maternal home” Beerwah is the chief ministerial candidate of NC while as Ghulam Nabi Azad, though unofficially is believed to be the candidate for the hot seat, BJP did not nominate one. The party only indicated somebody from Jammu saying “a Hindu chief minister this time”.

The present elections are rare as they may be leading up to a divide in the state. BJP in fact started the proceedings in this regard by relying on non-Muslim votes of Jammu region and Kashmiri Pandits. If the Jammu Dogra’s are “trapped” by BJP then it is sure to produce negative impacts on the solidarity of the state.

The present Jammu and Kashmir elections have given rise to a grave political issue having a potential not only to fragment the unity and integrity of the state but also to destroy the fragile socio-political fabric of this most militarized territory, where even after a large participation in polls, an overwhelming majority of the people are struggling to achieve their right to self determination.

For the past several months especially certain socio-political sections in Jammu are demanding the separate statehood to get rid of what they call “Kashmir domination”. The Hindu Nationalists who dream of ruling the state for the first time have added to the grave situation. The Jammu people especially Dogras are hell bent to make Jammu a separate state. Even the people like Bhim Singh are using the terms like “Jammu Pradesh” etc.

Non Muslim majority areas of the Jammu division fall in the districts of Jammu, Udhampur, Samba and Kuthua. Reports from the said districts suggest that majority of the people living there want to have their own state.

The distances between Jammu and Kashmir people are not new but have its long history. The state observes July 13 every year as martyrs day symbolizing the end of Dogra autocratic rule but the majority people of the same state (Jammu) consider these erstwhile autocratic rulers with high regard. Many statues of those “oppressors” can be seen in Jammu areas even now whose rule is known as the worst and the state observes a holiday to remember those martyred by the Dogra rulers.

Interesting part of the story is that almost all the present Jammu based politicians belong to the same Dogra dynasty which is treated as autocratic and oppressor not only in Kashmir but also in every Muslim majority part of the state. The successors of the same Dogra rulers are now parts of different political parties and want to rule the state once again, now democratically. “I am the soldier of Dogra Desh and want to secure the identity of Dogras by making a separate state for them,” yelled Bhim Singh in a television broadcast.

An impression is being created by Jammu based politicians that there demand of Jammu state is being backed by an overwhelming majority of the people across the region. They may be right, but only with Hindus. But as far as the Jammu Muslims are concerned, who constitute more than 40 per cent population of the Jammu province they are against this “sinister” demand. In fact they feel comfortable with the Muslim majority valley but geographically fall in the Jammu region which compels them to oppose the trifurcation demand using ambiguous terms like “secularism” “socio-political fabric” and so on.

To keep all the state regions intact now seems the most difficult job for every unionist party given the fact that BJP has already promised union territory status to Ladakh and almost all the Jammu based politicians demand for a “Dogra Desh”.

Hindu Nationalist Party (BJP) can alone not be blamed for creating a religious division in the state at the time of elections. The Congress had built its vote base through an exclusively Hindu-centric, Jammu-oriented regional agenda in 1983. The Congress managed to win 26 seats in that particular election of which 24 came from Jammu that too in the name of “anti-Muslim and anti-Kashmir sentiment”.

Now when both the parties want to come to power, PDP and BJP have started making use of the ambiguous ideology of secularism so that they can form a coalition. There are many in both the parties who think Hindu Nationalists are polarizing the state hence hinting an alliance with the Congress. Mufti and Omar have already stated to take all the three regions along.

The Jammu Muslims as well have started talking about the “nefarious designs” of the Hindu Nationalists. “The advocates of Dogra Desh seem to have been emboldened with the saffron forces coming to power in India.  The Muslim population of the Jammu province has been fighting this agenda tooth and nail. If the communal forces succeed in getting their agenda implemented, it can prove to be a holocaust for the 40 per cent Muslim minority of the Jammu province,” said Ghulam Ahmad Mir a Jammu based activist.

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