The dynamics of Kashmir politics have changed with the November 21 dissolution of the Legislative Assembly as the BJP has itself blurred all the differences between the mainstream and the separatists. This is not good for the idea of India that Delhi had been seeking to promote in the Valley for the past over decades as BJP ruled Centre has painted every one with a brush that the parties and individuals who had for long walked under the national tricolour.
Undoubtedly, the Assembly had to be dissolved some day by or before March 2021. The suspended animation status had become untenable for various reasons that it was keeping the doors open for the political maneuverings which have been an intrinsic part of Kashmir history, the consequences of which are being paid till date.
One of the greatest themes was that the Indian democracy and the elections were the substitute for other options that were raked up as Kashmir solution from time to time. This narrative had become quite loud after the “ revival of the democracy” in 1996. Thereafter, there was only one occasion when the Assembly was dissolved in July 2008 when the Kashmir-centric parties had joined hands over the Amarnath land row that forced the Ghulam Nabi Azad government. That was a different story and the elections were scheduled for the autumn of 2008 as the Assembly elected in October 2002 was nearing completion of its term.
This time it was different. Of course, there were many loose ends in the combination that the PDP, National Conference and Congress had projected as a combination with 56 seats in the House of 87 to stake claim to form the government, but these were not as loose that the gaps could not have been bridged. The politics have many surprises and the NC and PDP coming together should not have come as a big surprise because the National Conference had made the offer of unconditional support to PDP in early 2015 to keep the Kashmiri identity intact. Now the time has come not only to question whether late Mufti Mohammad Sayeed made a correct decision in accommodating the BJP in the Kashmir politics for the regional and communal harmony. History would judge him now whether his decision was to invite the end of the politics of accommodation with the national parties that believed in the supremacy of the idea of India of their brand. PDP is now in the category of pro-Pakistan grouping along with National Conference. This is to suggest that Kashmir doesn’t have Indians at all.
The Election Commission of India has announced that the Assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir will be held by May next year. It appears to be a realistic deadline after the abrupt dissolution of the Assembly last week.
It brings us to a question, who all will contest and on what issues? People’s Democratic Party and National Conference – after having been branded as pro-Pakistan will have to find out a new narrative for themselves. It is because the implied implication was that they cannot be trusted with governance or security affairs of the sensitive state of J&K.
BJP General Secretary Ram Madhav has accused them of acting on the “instructions from across the border,” citing boycott of the local bodies polls last month and subsequent alliance of theirs that had sought to stake a claim to form the government.
NC and PDP are considered “mainstream” in Kashmir, for they speak loudly about the Kashmir solution within the Indian constitution. Their instant reference point is Article 370 that grants special status to J&K in the Indian union .
Secondly, their participation in the elections since 1996 when the militancy was at its peak and participation in elections amounted to courting death. Their pro-India stance made them to see their identity as Kashmiri parties wedded to the idea of India.
Now, what would they tell the people, that they are not Pakistanis despite Delhi charging them with untrustworthiness. Their nationalistic credentials to which they were clinching have been consigned to the politics of polarisation.
What ideas NC and PDP will illuminate in Kashmir to seek votes, from the people who have every justification to ask, “Who are you- Indians or pro-Pakistan groups?”
All Parties Hurriyat Conference Chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq has taunted them: “NC, PDP despite doing New Delhi’s biddings at the cost of betraying their own people have not been able to earn New Delhi’s trust. After 70 years of loyalty and servitude branded as Pakistani agents and terror supporters by Indian state”.
NC and PDP would have to work harder to tell the people that BJP is not India. It is a daunting task, though.