Dr Altaf Hussain Para
Now the much hyped election process of Jammu & Kashmir is over and the people have made their choice in a relatively fair election with unprecedented voter turnout. Although the people of the state have expressed their verdict individually, it however, speaks of some collective consciousness of the three provinces. With predominantly Hindu and radicalized Jammu province expressed their choice in favour of centrist right-winger, BJP; a flood-affected Kashmir province voted region-centric ‘soft- separatist’, PDP; and the Buddhist Ladakh elected unpredictable Congress. It will be now a herculean task for the political class to reconcile the contradictory aspirations of the three regions and to form a stable government.
Since the declaration of the election results, I keep asking myself as to which political party deserves a celebration? Should PDP celebrate for adding just six seats to their tally and almost nothing from Jammu, even when, all the stars were conspiring for them? Should NC and Congress be jubilant for making it to double digits when they were almost written off by the political pundits as a relevant factor in the state politics? Or, should the BJP rejoice for their best ever performance and, the successful execution of their actual agenda to divide the opinion in Kashmir and to consolidate the same in Jammu in their favour? The readers know the answer better.
Now the political parties, victorious or otherwise, need to do some serious business in order to form a government based on people’s wishes—if at all, their wishes matter after they cast their vote. Here, let us examine a few options:
First: The alliance formed by PDP and BJP.
This collation can be justified for three reasons; that it will apparently form a most stable government as far their numbers are concerned; that it will ensure the representation of two main provinces of the state, and that it will ensure a smooth flow of funding from the center to the state.
However, the two parties are worlds apart as far their ideological foundations are concerned. The BJP have publicly said more than once that PDP is a soft-separatist political party. Article 370, AFSPA, approaches towards Pakistan and Separatists are the issues upon which the two parties are paradoxically and diametrically opposed to each other and the issues upon which depends their very survival at least in the state.
But then, there is another issue and nevertheless equally, if not more, important – the issue of moral justification.
The people of Kashmir have voted PDP to keep the BJP, a party patronizing ghar wapsi and hindutva, at bay in the same manner as the people of other region have chosen to vote BJP to get rid of Kashmir-centered political setting. Can the alliance be morally justified?
Also, it will cause severe harm to PDP than BJP for the later wants to be in power at any cost, for they cannot hope an improved performance in future.
Second: Possibility is PDP forming government with the support of Congress and others.
Mufti Sayeed’s Congress background and their previous experience make such an alliance ideologically easier to happen. However, such a formation may not last for a longer period of time for many reasons.
The two parties will be continuously blackmailed by the independents; the BJP as ruling party at center and second dominant political party in the state will make the life of the ruling formation very difficult; the MP’s of PDP at center are not in favour of such formulation for they want one or two ministerial positions at center to make themselves relevant there.
The only gainer of the formulation will be the Congress. It will make the otherwise irrelevant political party, both at center and in state, somewhat relevant.
Third: Alternative is NC forming government with BJP.
The formulation is not difficult for Omar Abdullah who was launched in the politics by the BJP. Both the parties want to be in power in the state although for different reasons; BJP for reaping dividends of their best performance and NC for benefitting an unexpected god send opportunity.
Mind it! It will be a win-win for both in anyway. However, there are a few problems. Can the BJP legislators from Jammu allow a Kashmiri Muslim from a numerically smaller political party to become CM with its support? Can NC risk its future by allowing a BJP CM in the State? Or else are the parties willing to trust the untrustworthy and untested Sajad Lone to be the neutral CM candidate?
Fourth: Possibility is PDP forming government with the help of NC.
Omar Abdullah has already expressed his ‘willingness’ to cooperate with PDP in this regard; although political observers take his offer with some salt. The formulation is not difficult keeping in view very few and negligible stated ideological differences between the two parties. If this happens, it will be a win-win for both the parties. Both can sell it to the maximum to their respective constituencies.
It will be a paradigm shift and a game changer as far the political discourse of the state is concerned. Whether they accept it or not, they are being perceived as Kashmiri parties and better to be so.
Sheikh Abdullah, one of the most towering sub-continental political figures was never accepted by the people of Jammu. Now, the question is: who will represent the people of Jammu in such a government formulation? Both central as well as state government.
This formulation needs courage, farsightedness and selflessness. Are the concerned parties willing to shed their egos? Perhaps, not.
Politicians are politicians and politics is politics. There are neither permanent friends nor foes but, only interests (mostly vested) are permanent.
(Dr Altaf Hussain Para is research scholar of Modern Kashmir History and can be contacted at email@example.com)