“WOULD you like to become chief minister of Kashmir again?” Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah was asked in 1968, shortly after his release from internment, by a correspondent of the Shabistan Urdu Digest.
His answer was explicit “No, because only that person who enjoys the confidence of the government of India can be the chief minister of Kashmir.” B.K. Nehru, governor of Kashmir, confirms this in his memoirs Nice Guys Finish Second: “from 1953 to 1975 chief ministers of that state had been nominees of Delhi” appointed through “rigged elections”.
Abdullah drew power from the people; not New Delhi. After the abject pact of 1975 he revived the National Conference. After his death his son Farooq reduced it to a tool of the centre. What Kashmir needs is a leader who can speak up to New Delhi for his people.
There is a big divide still between those who regard Sheikh Abdullah’s dismissal from office and his imprisonment by Nehru in 1953 as a crime and those who reproach him for not toeing the centre’s line.
Mufti Mohammed Sayeed, the protégé, shares the ideology of the conspirators of 1953 — Bakshi, Sadiq and Mir Qasim.
Any time now bar a hitch, he will be sworn in as chief minister of Jammu & Kashmir as nominal head of a coalition with the BJP which is opposed fundamentally and radically to everything which Mufti and his Peoples Democratic Party professed to stand for. During the election campaign both parties had attacked each other. Modi wooed Jammu with brazenly communal appeals.
The Indian prime minister wooed Jammu with brazenly communal appeals.
For the first time ever, the BJP will be in power in Kashmir. Mufti will be in office — not in power which will reside in New Delhi to be exercised through its men in government.
All this to satisfy Mufti’s long-festering lust for power; just one last taste of the heady brew for the 79-year-old.
It is important to view this from three distinct perspectives — the nature of the PDP-BJP deal and its implications; the structure of Kashmir’s politics, and the impact of both on a solution to the Kashmir dispute among all the parties involved — India, Pakistan and the people of Kashmir.
The BJP aspired to rule over Kashmir with a majority in its own right. That was ‘Mission 44 Plus’. It was this threat which drove the Muslims in the Valley to vote in large numbers. The result was that none of its candidates was elected.
In Jammu the BJP swept the NC and the PDP away. It failed in Ladakh completely. In an Assembly of 87 the PDP won 28 seats; BJP 26, the NC 15, the Congress 12 plus six independents.
If the PDP was true to its mandate it would have accepted the professed support of the Congress and three independents making a total of 43.
Three facts emerge from the recent pronouncements by the BJP’s President Amit Shah (and its general secretary, seconded to the BJP by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, Ram Madhav (that (a) the initiative for a coalition came from the PDP, (b) Omar Abdullah was as keen on a pact with the BJP, and (c) the BJP, wooed by both, was determined to be in power; not in the opposition.
The results of the polls were declared on Dec 23. On Dec 31 Mehbooba Mufti told Governor N.N. Vohra and declared publicly: “The PDP has the support of more than 55 MLAs which is more than enough to form the government.”
Thus by Dec 31 the deal was a fait accompli. But public opinion and the PDP’s cadre had to be placated by a daily retail of assurances of fidelity to the faith; elections to the Delhi Assembly on Feb 7 had to be tided over; the BJP’s cadre had to be placated. Feb 9 was the death anniversary of Afzal Guru’s hanging in 2013 and Feb 11 of Maqbool Bhat’s hanging in 1984.
Lastly, a fig leaf had to be devised, in the form of a minimum common programme, to cover up admittedly irreconcilable differences.
The compromise will secure BJP entry into the Valley, will have nothing for Kashmiris but the loaves and fishes of office to a man with a past as the Congress’ man in Kashmir
This brings us to the last point the impact of such politics on the Kashmir dispute. It cannot help one bit in the peace process. Significantly, of late Mufti has discovered the need for renewing the peace process between Pakistan and India which makes one suspect that Modi will renew it, and Mufti will claim that as his achievement.
It is woefully clear that unless the Kashmir dispute is solved its politics will remain hostage to the sordid flaws of New Delhi and the agents it chooses at any given moment in Srinagar.
The writer is an author and a lawyer based in Mumbai.
Published in Dawn February 14th , 2015