BJP's gain for sure but a huge loss for Jammu

 

What may be good for the BJP, may not necessarily be so for Jammu region which has given the party an overwhelming majority in the province, much less for the entire state. Rather a saffron surge is something that portends excessive danger to the state. Certainly having a reason to celebrate, the BJP which has more than doubled its score in electoral politics in Jammu, has also a grudge to nurse; it is also half way down from its Mission 44+, its caravan having been stopped on the southern side of the Pir Panjal. That should have been a clear message of the unacceptability of the party in the northern parts of the state and the divisiveness of its appeal. So what the Jammu electorate has chosen is not only at the peril of Jammu, it is at the risk of fragmenting the state’s polity further by widening the regional and religious divisions and also at the risk of jeopardizing its security concerns. What may be construed as a brute majority to the saffron party in Jammu region is something that will always evoke an opposite and probably more lethal reaction in the other part, whether the party is able to prop itself to the corridors of power or not.

Out of power, it would be in a stronger position to continue with its highly vitriolic rabble rousing and in further splitting the state along regional and religious lines, using communal jargon to the hilt and creating hurdles in issues of governance. Its share of nuisance value is not likely to plunge even with a piece of pie of power. 

Ideologically extremely different from the parties it can possibly enter into a tie up with, it may have to distance itself from the contentious issues like Article 370 and conversions if it is to cobble up an arithmetic equation of political alliances in which it finds a place. That may sound good on the surface but the party’s genetic code is unlikely to allow it to refrain from using these issues overtly and covertly, especially as a counter if the alliance partner (whether it would be PDP or NC) were to pander to the interests of its Kashmir’s constituency with respect to anything from human rights issues to development. It is expected that if BJP were to give up Article 370, PDP or NC would have to give up AFSPA revocation slogan

. But where would the limits to the bargain, specified and unspecified end? Would they include the many issues that the BJP and the largely Kashmir based parties stand divided over – the politicization of pilgrimages, the youth amnesty policy for those surrendering on Line of Control, the Cross-LoC mobility, excessive militarization and dealing with issues of human rights? How much is that each side will give up? How will the Kashmir party in alliance with BJP be able to satisfy the population in its strongholds whenever an issue of communal conflagration erupts within Jammu and Kashmir and outside? Would it be free to respond to the issues like conversion, Godse worship et al with cryptic silence of the union government to such affairs or would it have to surrender before the more powerful BJP, already strengthened by a BJP in the saddle in the centre?

What could be a successful common minimum programme between two parties which may differ with each other on basic development policy, the massive ideological differences apart? The PDP’s sadak, bijli, paani mantra may in all likelihood be offset by the regional discrimination politics that the BJP has played all along. Would we see every little road and bridge being contested, every list of recruitments nit-picked over and battled over along regional and religious lines? The BJP’s economic mantra of bringing in private sector in a big wayforcing the state with an additional burden of creation of Special Economic Zones which could further water down whatever little is left of the Article 370 and subvert the gains of the land reforms of 1950s. And, how will this state-centre relationship work in a state where polity is already shaped by excessive political interference by the centre and economic dependence on it? It doesn’t look like a very pleasing picture. 

While the state is poised for a crisis, this way or that, in varying degrees, what is it that Jammu has achieved other than a burden of having chosen its own destiny, its own tryst with a force whose fountain-head rests on aggressive communal violence in the name of consolidation of political power. It can be easily pedaled as Jammu assertion to bring a rejoicing note to the verdict. But the overwhelming majority to a saffron party is less a reflection of a regional assertion and more a Hindu assertion. The complete rout of the sole regional Jammu based voice of the Panthers Party, which in recent years had managed to be an effective voice in terms of representation of regional aspirations and issues, despite its very small presence is a reflection that the BJP mandate is more a manifestation of the Hindu assertion which is fraught with many perils.

The same regional assertion package was in liberal use to justify the communal upsurge that Jammu region witnessed in 2008 over an issue that had nothing to do with interests of the region or its majority community. Where does the same regional assertion go missing on issues of vital importance – about creation of jobs, basic infrastructure of roads, education, health or about water and power supply. A good alternative of Jammu based regional party, best representing the aspirations of the people, could have ensured that the Jammu assertion does not derail into a Hindutva assertion. Instead of that happening, the signs of regional political power have been fully decimated. There couldn’t be a sadder moment for Jammu. 

Jammu carries a huge historical baggage, of having been used as a counter to the Kashmir’s political discourse in history, right from the days of Praja Parishad agitation. But never before has this divisive assertion been endorsed by an electorate so overwhelmingly. There is a reason why Jammu should feel elated, even if for its very myopic sense of quantitative victory. The traditional regional differences within the state obviously throw up a situation where Jammu feels politically neglected in a dispensation where the dominant voices are from the Valley. These differences have been further used by national parties and further sharpened where the discourse always turns into Jammu versus Kashmir rather than progress and development of the entire state. Even Congress has played this card, though in much smaller degrees, trying to create an illusion that the greatest danger to Jammu comes from Kashmir.

There is a certain degree of pride in which Jammu asserts, even as lines between regional and religious differences get dangerously blurred as it clings on to the saffron post. The issues and neglect become a sub-plot and soon get lost in oblivion. What remains is a saffron surge – a historic truth. It would be even more vociferous now, endorsed and legitimised through the ballot. There is no way, this baggage can be shed, as happened in 1947, even long after a sense prevails of the damage done, inwards and outwards.