Inherently Intricate

Clean decision-making during honeymoon period does not insulate the BJP-PDP alliance from exhibiting its polar differences on key issues concerning the diverse vote politic that the two parties represent, argues R S Gull

Er-rashid--state-flag

Like every new government, Mufti Sayeed led coalition government started with a difference. Political statements – apparently aimed at addressing the respective constituencies, the ‘north pole-south pole’ alliance, is seemingly desperate to exhibit a positive change.

Reconstitution of the Public Service Commission (PSC) is a pointer towards getting the best to the crucial decision-making. Education Minister Naeem Akhter’s delegation of authority of transfers – that had evolved as a huge ‘industry’ within the well-numbered, ill-managed and nearly-zero-output ministry was a shock to many. Perhaps for the first time, the first time law minister Basharat Bukhari sent the lawmakers (58 out of 87 are first timers) for a brief crash course to educate them about their role and responsibilities in the house and got the all time veteran Abdul Rahim Rather to teach them. NC veteran Rather lost elections for the first time in four decades. Bukhari is already committed to get the allotments in Evacuees Property department investigated.

The latest and also the most important was the government had decided against extending the practice of re-appointments. Even the system of getting people on contract has been done away with. The government seemingly wants to reassure its staff that they are the best but will have to perform. Though the real music will be heard only after the orchestra of development is put on and complex issues crop up, the start has not been as bad as naysayers foresaw.

But the honeymoon was not smoothly seductive. Tackling of two key issues generated heat and dust forcing the ‘not-so-strange’ bedfellows to act and control damage. Masarat Aalam was the one instance that media discovered for the ‘ideologically diverse’ government. Initial shock forced sleeplessness in both camps and it was after a few days that they invoked the coalition dharma to fight it out. Aalam’s release was purely legal, strictly as per the law of the land, a flawless decision that was set in motion well before the BJP-PDP got into deal-making.

But, it took the government a few days, to understand why the situation was seemingly out of hand, initially. Insiders in the government said the reshuffle that touched nearly 60 officers included two top officers who had somehow failed to act swiftly on the issue. State’s intelligence chief and state’s home secretary. Both of them were shifted.

Though Naeem Akhter, who briefed after the first major reshuffle in state’s bureaucracy, tried to play it down but the fact is that giving home department to top IAS officer B R Sharma as additional charge was to send a message out. Sources suggest that the initial report that Home Minister Rajnath Singh read out in the Lok Sabha, listed the 28 cases against Aalam, was scripted in Jammu and send to the centre without consulting the state government. Even an option of keeping Aalam with CIK for a few days and then letting him go was avoided. Though the same desk sent a detailed dossier to the MHA later listing all the issues and cases including trumpeted-up charges having the same old grounds was again read out by Singh in the parliament, the damage was already done. Prime Minister Narendra Modi was, perhaps for the first time, personally forced to defend a decision that he had not taken personally!

A brief talk that Deputy Chief Minister Dr Nirmal Singh had with reporters at a Kashmiri Pandit function at Amphalla indicated another major issue. “There are some officials in the administration who are either not playing their role properly or else indulging in the acts without informing the government,” Dr Singh said. “This has been done earlier also.”

A “major attempt” to “de-stabilise the Government”, he pointed out, was made on the issue of state flag. “A statement was issued without the approval of State Government regarding the State Flag to create a controversy,” Dr Singh said. “We will take action against the guilty as no one will be allowed to work against the interests of the people.” He said though CMP is the main bible of the coalition, the two parties must meet and discuss if an issue comes up beyond the CMP.

Civil SecretariatThe state flag order envisaging equal respect to it at par with the tricolor was an interesting development. It, however, was revoked within 24 hours. Given the interest the issuance of order generated in Kashmir, PDP was so panicky after it was revoked that it desperately tried to kill the news becoming a front-page development.

The State Flag is a bigger issue in state’s population that believes in the exclusivity of the state in the federation. Though ruled by its own constitution, the governing structure of the state has apparently disregarded the semblance of the autonomy the state still enjoys. With state flag and state’s own republic day, a man is already fighting the case in the court.

A retired forest conservator Abdul Qayoom Khan filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) before the High Court in December 2013, seeking directions for the government to declare November 17 as the ‘Republic Day of J&K’. His PIL says he is hurt over the constitutional authorities including the governor, the judicial structure and the executive not hoisting the state flag on their cars and offices.

“…contrary to the Constitution under which constitutional authorities have been created and function these authorities only use Indian National Flag and no other Flag,” the petition reads. “This has the effect of showing contempt to the Constitution of the State.”

Though the civil secretariat in Srinagar and Jammu has both the flags, the state and the national flag unfurled over it, and the Chief Minister and most of the Kashmir ministers use it on their cars, most of the lawmakers and the top executives skip its use. In 2007, the state legislature amended the J&K Prevention of Insult to the State Honor Act 1979 by punishing the offenders by a yearlong imprisonment. The move was in response to reports that the autonomous hill development councils that state legislative assembly created for Leh and Kargil have created their own logos and instead of using state flag, they are only hoisting the tricolor. There was also a member protesting against a BJP lawmaker not using the state flag on his car.

J&K’s state flag is rectangular (3:2), deep red flag having three equidistant white vertical strips of equal width next to the staff and a white plough in the middle with the handle facing the stripes. The red field represents labour, the plough agriculture as three white stripes represent the three geographic regions of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh. It is the outcome of state’s constituent assembly that started drafting the constitution on May 1, 1951 and was dissolved on January 25, 1957. The constitution, however, was partially enacted by the assembly on November 17, 1956. J&K was neither celebrating its own Republic Day nor that of India’s till early seventies when Bakhshi Ghulam Mohammad started hoisting the tricolor.

Chartered Accountant and a prolific Kashmir columnist Abdul Majid Zargar has established that J&K enacted its constitution on two different dates – Sections 1 to 8 on November 17, 1956 and the rest of it on January 26, 1957. “That might be the reason why officially the state’s republic day is the same as that of India,” he believes. But still the flag issue remains.

PIL triggered a debate on it. Independent lawmaker Engineer Rashid led his supporters to Sher-e-Kashmir Park in Srinagar on June 7, 2014 (the flag was adopted by constituent assembly on June 7, 1952) where he unfurled the state flag and celebrated state’s ‘national day’.

But state government remained immune to the notices that the court issued. First notice was issued by Justice D S Thakur on March 20, 2014. Second set of notices were issued to the state government, the assembly speaker, chairman of the legislative council and the registrar of the high court by Justice Hasnain Massodi on November 10, 2014. Now the High Court has issued a final notice in absence of which the court could pass an ex-party decision.

Insiders in the government said they had decided that the law ministry must respond to the notices. Once it is done, the court will issue orders on basis of history and constitution and would be honoured. Nobody knows how the GAD order was issued and hurriedly rescinded later. Many think the BJP pressure sent Mufti to undo the order. GAD falls under Chief Minister.

Notwithstanding a visible commitment to better governance and trying to showcase it, J&K’s ‘south pole-north pole’ alliance has inherent interest clash that even a TV anchor can trigger a tremor. CMP is all right but heterogeneity is known to fetch better chain reactions.

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