Political activities in mainstream camp affected due to increasing cases of Coronavirus writes Zahoor Malik
Political activities, which had gained some momentum in the mainstream camp in Jammu and Kashmir, have been affected due to the return of Coronavirus. While there was no immediate motivation for the major mainstream political to go for intense political activities (as assembly polls are nowhere in sight), they were somewhat active to make their presence felt and survive in tough political conditions.
Covid Positive Leaders
Testing positive for Covid-19 by National Conference leaders Dr Farooq Abdullah and then Omar Abdullah has put to a halt in their party workers’ meetings in different corners of Kashmir. The two Abdullahs had attended and addressed series of such meetings before catching the Covid -19 infection. Since the Coronavirus-related crises were under control at that time, party meetings could see sizeable attendance of workers at someplace. NC had planned more meetings with the intention to reconnect the grass root workers with the party leadership. Even other party leaders were being involved in such activities to reassure the party men that National Conference continues to exist as a major political force in Jammu and Kashmir despite the changing political arena.
PDP president Mehbooba Mufti who has been facing a tough time politically due to the central agencies’ investigations against her and some of her party colleagues and continuous deserting of her party leaders, too was indirectly hit by Coronavirus as her daughter tested positive.
Mehbooba has been very vocal against some of the major decisions by the government of India. She has also criticized the government for some of the recent incidents in Kashmir. Interestingly all other political parties have preferred observing silence on such incidents. But with the virus creating a grim scenario, not only Mehbooba but NC leaders too have put to a halt their meetings with party workers.
Their interaction with the outside world will be through social media only. Omar, who used to be very active on Twitter in past, has reduced his activity to a greater extent there. More particularly after his father was questioned by Enforcement Directorate (ED) in the alleged scam in the J&K cricket association. ED had also ordered attachment of the immovable properties including the residential houses of Farooq Abdullah. The NC president has since moved to the high court against the ED order. Recently Prime Minister Narendra Modi wished Farooq a speedy recovery from Coronavirus and Omar on behalf of his family warmly thanked the prime minister for his gesture.
Reports of a number of members of various political parties testing positive are also being received from different parts of Valley.
Holding meetings and conventions under these difficult health conditions have become almost impossible for the political parties now. The leaders have privately communicated to their party men not to hold political gatherings, which can make them vulnerable to coronavirus infection.
Worst Time Ahead
Based on the assessment on the health front, the political leadership fears the worst time in J&K ahead if due precautions are not taken. This is also evident because the health sector is seemingly crumbling in some major cities and other parts of the country due to a sudden increase in the Covid-19 cases. Politicians at the national level are also getting infected. Some of them have even lost their close relatives in the pandemic. Some National political parties have come under severe criticism for massive roadshows and rallies in poll-bound West Bengal despite coronavirus. However, a few politicians tried to play down these mega rallies saying the virus is spreading more in non-poll-bound states.
Reports indicate that in Jammu and Kashmir, the leadership has told their party men that any decision to restart the routine major meetings will be taken only when the health scenario is reviewed after the holy month of Ramzan.
Before the abrogation of article 370, political activities used to continue even in Ramzan also though not on a large scale. Besides the routine political activities, hosting of Iftaar parties by politicians particularly those in the government had of late become a routine to get in touch with prominent people from different walks of life. Such iftaar parties could not be hosted because of the political situation and coronavirus last year. This Ramzan also such gatherings may not take place.
It is to be seen as how long the political activities will remain suspended due to coronavirus in J&K. There is also suspense about the holding of assembly polls. The elections are nowhere in sight as the delimitation process is in progress. The polls will be held only after the delimitation process is completed. During the exercise, more seats will be added to the assembly and boundaries of a number of assembly constituencies can be redrawn. And when the polls are finally announced what can be the political situation on the ground is something, which the political parties would like to watch.
While the coronavirus has put to a halt the political activities, the government is taking some major Kashmir-related decisions on after the other. The political parties like National Conference and PDP have no clue about what the central government is up to regarding Kashmir measures till polls are held after the Coronavirus is hopefully completely over.