The sudden dissolution of the Jammu and Kashmir assembly by Governor Satyapal Malik is a hasty decision lacking moral, constitutional and democratic legitimacy and bitterly exposes the biases and hypocrisy with which the BJP operates in this state. Technically, the governor is well within his powers to dissolve the assembly but such decisions cannot be as arbitrarily and hastily taken as demonstrated late Wednesday evening. Belatedly, in support of his decision, the governor has quoted three primary reasons. One is the security aspect. The second is the non-viability of an ‘unholy alliance’ with political adversaries like the two main regional groups like Peoples Democratic Party and National Conference coming together with Congress to stake claim to government formation with the argument that this will not sustain. The third is the purported pressing need to stall any attempts for horse-trading.
All three arguments are untenable. If the armed conflict and the border tensions is a criteria to stall any political process with respect to government formation, other than the one suitable to New Delhi, why is it that the situation is conducive enough to hold local bodies polls despite no polling in certain pockets, lack of candidatures and secret candidates. Second, politics makes strange bedfellows and irrespective of the moral question involved it is not uncommon for ideologically different groups or long-time political enemies to forge alliances. It is neither illegal or illegitimate. It need not be over-emphasised that the coming together of three political groups, whose ideological moorings have certain key similarities would have been far less dramatic and ‘unholy’ than the BJP alliance with PDP in 2014.
Thirdly, the question of horse-trading in hung parliaments and assemblies are inevitable but such possibilities have never been used to dissolve a de-legitimise the very authority of the state legislature merely on speculation. The Governor’s fears about sustainability of either the PDP led formation or the one proposed by Sajad Lone with BJP and unknown “18 MLAs” or about the possibility of horse trading are not misplaced. The question of fears of horse-trading seem to have cropped only after PDP-NC-Congress claim and interestingly not in the last one month when there is much in the public domain to show 27 member conglomerate of Sajad Lone-BJP combine poaching legislators and talking about the possibility of a government formation that was being built neither on any moral or ethical principles. But the moot question is whether the Governor is justified in acting merely on basis of his fears without following the due process of allowing the political groups to prove their majority, form a government and begin judging it only once it begins to perform. The apprehensions of poor quality of democracy or selective perception of security anxietes cannot be used to stall a democratic process.
The decision appears to be inspired not out of concerns for security and democracy of the state but out of political convenience of the BJP which is in power at the Centre and wields much authority and control in the state by virtue of both tradition and the Governor’s office under governor’s rule. The one clear import of the many twists and turns that Jammu and Kashmir’s political drama took on Wednesday is the evident bias and hypocrisy of the BJP. It evinces itself through selective non-functioning of fax machines and inaccessibility of the governor, also through the different yard-sticks with which constitution of local bodies and state government is seen. The decision is not based on principles but on political suitability of the BJP in power at the Centre which is averse to the idea of emergence of any government in Jammu and Kashmir other than one that it can directly manipulate and control. The hasty dissolution of assembly, which demonstrates pure political greed, is also an unpragmatic one in view of the sensitivity and complexity of this state as well as an ongoing conflict. The hung assembly that was thrown up in 2014 elections left no possibility for an ideal combination of political formations. The PDP-NC-Cong could not have been an ideal choice either but had far greater potential to sustain than the two ideologically different poles like BJP and PDP coming together. It may have suffered in view of a weak Jammu base and minimal Hindu presence but does a party in power at the Centre which fails to give any adequate representation to minorities have the moral authority to question the legitimacy of such a formation. Sadly, the BJP is dictated by petty and parochial interests not by Indian interests which are served far better by the existence of a democratically elected government in Jammu and Kashmir, whatever its quality and ability to govern.