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Government of India apart, the All-party meeting was equally important for the mainstream political leadership in Kashmir, who were feeling completely neglected and victimised, writes Zahoor Malik

A group photograph of 14 Jammu and Kashmir participants in the All Party Meeting that Prime minister Narendra Modi hosted on June 24, 2021, at his official residence. The photograph marked the beginning of the meeting.

Whatever posturing the local mainstream political parties will do now after attending Prime Minister, Narendra Modi’s all-party meeting in New Delhi, the fact is that it was very important for them as well.

 Having been completely sidelined and pushed to the wall for nearly two years, Kashmir’s mainstream parties needed some kind of respectable access to the political and power corridors in Delhi. This lack of access and formal communication with the centre was adversely affecting their political interests here.

 No doubt the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) particularly the National Conference, its main constituent had done significantly well in the district development council (DDC) polls. But the exit of Peoples Conference (PC) from PAGD and later actions against NC and PDP leaders by the centre had started creating an impression that Delhi has completely written off the major mainstream parties here and will scuttle all moves by them to be back at the centre stage of Kashmir politics.

There was a feeling that Delhi wants to change political players in Jammu and Kashmir completely. This had also started a kind of demoralisation effect on the workers and supporters of the two main parties that are competing for power in Jammu and Kashmir. There were apprehensions among the leadership of the two parties that they would lose support base.

Powerful Bureaucracy

For the last two years, the bureaucracy is enjoying sweeping powers with political leadership, who used to be in command earlier, made helpless spectators and victims. They have no influence on the official setup, which they used to have earlier even while being in opposition. This feeling had trickled down to the cadres to the level of frustration. There were reports that some newly floated smaller parties enjoying Delhi’s patronage after reading down Article 370 were being accommodated by the official circles here in getting the smaller problems of people getting solved.

Chief Secretary Dr Arun Kumar Mehta chairing a meeting of officials regarding COVID-19 on Saturday, June 12, 2021. Pic: DIPR

The continuous neglect by the centre was not good for the political health of major political parties here. It is not a hidden fact that political parties in Jammu and Kashmir need some kind of goodwill from the centre to survive in the electoral process. That way no political party would like to have a head-on collision with Delhi even if the circumstances lead to that also. Their path to coming to power in Jammu and Kashmir moves through the centre. Free and fair poll exercise is among the vital keys to that.

The Election Politics

From Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s time, the continuous free and fair polls have given confidence to local mainstream parties to go for the political posturing and fish in troubled waters at times as well.  This exercise has also been helping the Government of India at the international level in building a narrative that they do not interfere with the verdict of people. Even after the reading down of article 370, the Modi government has not tried to disturb the reality of polling booths during DDC polls. However, there were allegations from the local mainstream parties from PAGD that they were not allowed free campaigning.

The fairness in polling and results helped PAGD to consolidate its position. Efforts were made to minimise the gains with the departure of PC from PAGD and making elected members of important mainstream parties to joining pro-centre groups. This caused a lot of panic among the cadres of NC and PDP, who felt that the government of India wanted to demolish them politically and keep them out of the scene.

Now after attending the All Party Meeting, the political scene has again started changing in Jammu and Kashmir.

New Lease of Life

Not going into the reasons behind the Prime Minister inviting the mainstream leaders for talks-whether he did so on his own or due to some external or internal pressure, but the fact is that the move has given a new lease of life to the electoral politics in Jammu and Kashmir.

A photograph from All Party Meeting that Prime Minister Narendra Modi hosted at his official residence in Delhi on June 24, 2021. Fourteen politicians including four Chief Minister’s and four Deputy Chief Minister’s participated were invited.

The official machinery, which was reluctant till recently to listen to them even on small local issues, has to pay some attention to them now. Who knows these very leaders can be in power again. The leaders badly needed a change in the political situation. This will give confidence also to their workers and supporters that they are very much in the game. This confidence can help them in elections also.

The Delimitation Process

With the major political parties back on the scene, they would keep a close watch on the working of the delimitation commission. This is despite the fact that there is a feeling among NC and PDP that the final report and recommendations of the commission will surely help BJP as more seats will go to Jammu. This can strengthen the post-poll position of the BJP, which can come to power on its own in case the party swept the assembly polls in Jammu the same way as it did in the last election.

It may need some small help from the Kashmir based groups, which it is patronising presently. But in case the Jammu slipped out of its hands, the scenario can be altogether different.

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