It Is Opportunism, Stupid!

As hoards of politicians’ crossover and embrace groupings they stood against for, embarrassed commoners feel shocked. But ideologies being dead for a long time, power politics will survive as the art of exploring possibilities in a given situation, reports R S Gull

Ajatshatru son of Dr Karan Singh joined BJP alongwith his wife
Ajatshatru son of Dr Karan Singh joined BJP alongwith his wife

In the run up to Lok Sabha polls this summer, NC strongly suggested ally Congress against repeating Choudhary Lal Singh for the third term. Their plea, as also that of a section of Congress, was that he sounds more of a fascist than a secular and managing Muslim support for him will be an uphill task. A sulking Singh waited till his erstwhile boss Ghulam Nabi Azad was defeated and then joined BJP.

Now the rightwing party dislodged its own sitting MLA Jagdish Raj Sapolia and has fielded Singh from Basholi! Sapolia had won the same seat in 1996 as a Congressman and then reclaimed it as a BJP man in 2008 and in 2014 he will attempt winning it as a Congressman again.

Sapolia is no exception. As the state is scheduled to go for first of the 5-phase poll on November 25, there were many exits and entries in political parties. At least six former ministers and 13 sitting legislators including eight MLAs and five MLCs resigned and defected to other parties or are in the process of contesting elections as independents. The tectonic shifts in the political landscape of a place in anticipation of elections are just not uncommon. These lustrous realignments have remained a routine.

NC had two former chief secretaries and Sheikh Ghulam Rasool, one of them, has already defected to PDP. Congress has another former Chief Secretary B R Kundal who resigned and is contesting independently.

Karan Singh, whom many Congressmen see as a man with “RSS heart” sent one son to PDP and another to BJP. In Jammu, Kabla Singh, alias Krishan Dev Singh, who had unsuccessfully contested twice independently from Reasi, joined PDP last week after being an RSS ex-parcharak (educator) for more than 60 years!

Outside BJP, there were long queues from Congress, PDP and NC: NC’s Talib Hussain is BJP candidate from Rajouri, PDP’s Abdul Gani Kohli is its Kalakote candidate, Congress’s RS Pathania is BJP’s face in Ramnagar, NC’s Tariq Hussain Keen and Kuldeep Dubey are contesting on BJP mandate from Inderwal and Gool-Arnas as Congress’s former minister Thakur Puran Singh is BJP candidate from Darhal.

BJP denied mandate to seven of its sitting lawmakers. Three of them joined Congress, NC and Panthers Party and one is contesting independently. Going from a ‘secular’ Congress to a ‘communal’ BJP or vice versa was never abnormal.

Shiekh Ghulam Rasool with Mufti Mohammad Sayed
Shiekh Ghulam Rasool with Mufti Mohammad Sayeed

This principle is now being actively followed by Muslims in regional parties. After a series of meetings with various BJP leaders, slain Hurriyat leader Abdul Gani Lone’s younger son, heading his faction of the Peoples Conference, had a 40-minutes meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Neither side requires admitting the ‘love’ when they are already in the courtship. When the two sides are keen to stay closer they prefer seeing common minimum things and not the principal differences.

“To be honest, we did not discuss politics, not to talk of Article 370,” Lone was quoted saying. “But on Article 370 BJP is seeking just a debate which can go either way, we may end up enhancing what we already have.” Lone says his meetings with BJP are part of a continuation of an informal idea exchange that has been taking place for nearly ten years now.

Within hours after Lone landed in Srinagar, he was driving to Handwara, the constituency he is contesting from. This seat, one of the 26 seats the party is attempting, was represented by his father thrice, as Congressman in 1967 and 1972 and as Janta Party man in 1977. As founder of Peoples Conference, a faction of which Sajjad heads, Lone was elected from Karnah in 1983.

Even Abdul Gani Lone understood the politics well and explored the possibilities in given situations. After entering politics as a Congressman, then flirting with Janta Party, he eventually founded his PC. But in 1990 when a new situation emerged, Lone was part of Hurriyat. From his high point of inviting foreigners add up to depleting local militant resource to later being openly against them for hijacking the indigenous movement, Lone was assassinated days after he spoke of a way forward.

Politics being the art of possible, it’s practitioners create their own niche in ever-changing situations. Ideologies are used to create parties but not to retain ambitious men and women. Sajjad’s coziness with BJP is not the first instance of a compromised ideology. This has been happening in Kashmir for a long time.

Sajad Gani Lone
Sajad Gani Lone

Converting Muslim Conference into National Conference apart, Sheikh Abdullah was behind bars for most of the post-1953 period. When the window threw up an opportunity, he was there as head of a Congress house. This was despite Sheikh spearheading a literal social boycott of the “gutter worms”, as he and his party would term congress, a campaign that lead to various divorces on political basis and denial to even funerals.

After Dr Farooq Abdullah emerged as the poster-boy of anti-Congress movement in India, he faced music at home and Ghulam Mohammad Shah replaced him through a Mufti Sayeed-engineered palace intrigue. The next step was Dr Abdullah who joined Rajiv Gandhi, the spoils of an accord devastated Kashmir.

Post militancy, when Dr Farooq headed a strong house in Srinagar, he ensured his son Omar Abdullah’s internship in the NDA regime led by Atal Behari Vajpayee. It cost Sheikh Abdullah’s loyalist Prof Saif ud Din Soz his job because he opposed the idea and went against the party whip and voted against Vajpayee. (Soz eventually landed in Congress which in Kashmir context was also an ideological compromise.) Omar stayed put in the council of ministers, months beyond Godhra and later resigned saying his preoccupations in state elections will make his ministry suffer!

Right now when the BJP, riding on Modi wave is expected to sweep Jammu’s Hindu belt, tremors of the ‘political quake’ are felt in Srinagar. Now people are talking about the fate of special status, the state subjects and lot many things on which the Sangh Parivaar has a stingingly different approach.

If the reports from Delhi are taken at face value, the BJP is almost in a celebration that they have actually wrested Kashmir. Dr Jitendra Singh Rana, currently an MoS in PMO is being projected as the new Chief Minister of J&K. A party internal assessment, apparently collated from the ground level surveys that various security agencies carry out routinely, suggests they will even surpass the seats that PDP will get! Apparently that sounds a tall order but the division of “secular” (read Muslim) vote may help the party get some seats from otherwise Muslim majority belts in Jammu as well.

Right now as the “secular” parties are crying hoarse over the ambitious Mission 44+, they are actually helping the rightwing party to get the rear feat. While the BJP vote is consolidated, the secular vote will divide.

When BJP started looking at J&K, it did not manage friendship with the small players only, it created its own “friends”. Congress president Prof Saif ud Din Soz has alleged that BJP is spending lot of money and is buying votes. The idea is simple: while small parties with marginal influence can get a seat or two, the new players will cut the margins that can trigger surprising results!

Parties in Kashmir do not see much of a difference between Congress and BJP. “When it comes to Kashmir,” PDP president Ms Mehbooba Mufti told last month. “There is not much difference between Congress and BJP.” She believes that Congress failed to do anything when BJP was in opposition. She talks in detail about how Vajpayee proved impressively different from his successors. “We had good relations with both of them (Dr Manmohan Singh and Vajpayee) but excellent with Vajpayee Ji.”

After meeting Modi, Lone talked the same language. “In context of Kashmir, I could not see any difference. Both of them adhere to national policy on Kashmir,” Sajjad said. “The only difference is that BJP in power has been more liberal than Congress. The two parties are two different ideological entities; it must be outside J&K but not in J&K.”

Now it is the crisis to prove how is Vajpayee different from Modi? While Vajpayee’s contributions are already known, it is too early to see how Modi does. When Modi makes friends with people – from Talib Hussain in Pir Panchal range to Sajjad Lone in north Kashmir, it obviously indicates, ideology can wait if opportunity is good!


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