J&K – The Road Ahead

The state of J&K is at crossroads today of a political vacuum on one side & a stubborn policy of the BJP Government at the centre on the other side.

By Anil Anand

Confusion and not clarity, has unfortunately become synonymous with respective Central Governments’ approach towards Jammu and Kashmir and more precisely Kashmir. The present Narendra Modi-02 dispensation is no different from the past. The only difference on the horizon is that Amit Shah, known for his strong views and decision making capacity, is the Home Minister and more importantly he still is the BJP president.

Does Shah holding the dual charge of Home Ministry and as BJP chief hints at some clarity on Kashmir as he is overseeing both governmental and ideological planks? Be it the holding of Assembly elections in J and K, conducting delimitation of the constituencies or dealing with sensitive issues such as Articles 370 and 35A of the Constitution, it seems the government is on a conflict with the party although both the entities belong to the BJP. An impression is gathering ground that the party is getting precedence over the government on thinking over Kashmir.

This impression is not without any base. Shah’s stands on these issues are at variance even with the policies and thinking of the Modi-01 set up when current defence minister, Rajnath Singh was the Home Minister. His stand is more clear and akin to the erstwhile Bharatiya Jan Sangh and its current ‘avatar’ BJP’s ideological plank of ‘ekvidhan, ekpradhan and eknishan’ (one constitution, one chief and one symbol) which flows from the original RSS thinking. He has publically emphasised on it both inside and outside the Parliament.

The one factor which has gained currency over all these issuesseems to be to win the state Assembly elections by all means. So, the resultant confusion on whether the elections be held in October-November this year along with some other states, there is still no word on it, whether the delimitation of constituency would be undertaken before the polls or these would be conducted without delimitation which is procedurally a time consuming process. More importantly what do the Modi-02 dispensation and BJP wish to do with Articles 370 and 35A as there are conflicting signals on these issues as well?

The confusion persists at least in public eye as to what road map the Central Government wishes to adopt on Kashmir. Would it like to make some structural changes under the ages of the President’s rule which included undertaking the delimitation process and dealing with the Articles 370 and 35A or intention is to merely make these as election issues to further strengthen BJP’s base in Jammu and Ladakh on way to realising Shah’s dream of the party forming the government on its own?

There are more questions than answers coming forward but there is no denying the fact that there is a plan at work which is very clear from the manner in which Shah has kept Kashmir among his top priorities. To have a greater focus and accord top priority to a festering wound such as Kashmir is a positive to some extent even whether the approach to achieve the ultimate goal has raised questions and causing concerns in the sensitive state.

Both Modi and Shah are capable of making some out-of-the-box moves which they have exhibited during the last five years or so. Yes, Jammu and Kashmir requires such an approach but without losing the sight that ultimate goal is to bring peace by instilling confidence among people of all the three regions of the state namely Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh and more importantly the Kashmiris.

There could be no two views that whosoever challenges the sovereignty of India has to be dealt with strongly. The Modi Government, as were the previous dispensations, is clear on this front without any confusion. The results of this approach are visible on ground but the comparative calm could be deceptive unless followed by slew of measures on administrative, political and social fronts to covert the gains of the security forces into long term benefits.

While keeping the pressure on security front on it is imperative that the prevailing confusion on holding the Assembly elections should be immediately erased. When the RSS’s points man in BJP and its present general secretary, Ram Madhav stated on July 8, 2019 that the BJP was ready for the elections and waiting for the decision of the Election Commission of India in this regard, it was reassuring that the neither the Government nor the BJP has lost sight of the significance of democratic process taking place.

It is well known that the Centre and the autonomous Election Commission of India act in tandem while discussing and creating congenial environment for holding elections. So, to suggest that we are ready unless the ECI takes a call is rather naive. The ECI has already erred by not holding bi-election to Anantnag Lok Sabha seat for nearly two years citing security concerns while undertaking incident free civic and panchayat elections in the interregnum. Only recently, the country witnessed a comparative peaceful multi-phased poll in Anantnag during just concluded Lok Sabha elections.

The gut feeling is that the Centre and the ruling BJP are preparing for an October-November Assembly election in the midst of confusion. There is already a flurry of activity in the state with political leaders and workers from parties such as Congress, National Conference and even PDP “joining” BJP to “create” a favourable atmosphere. In the backdrop of these desertions and Congress, which has a strong presence in Jammu region, in the midst of existential crisis never witnessed before it is the right opportunity for the BJP to strike where it hurts the most. Surely, the BJP is aware of this scenario.

Home Minister Shah and Governor Satyapal Malik have surprisingly launched a political tirade against National Conference and PDP for being dynastic and having looted the state. Both of them are holding important constitutional posts and such references by them to the two mainline political parties who had held India’s flag aloft even during worst of times and paid with the lives of their leaders and workers, were avoidable.

The prevailing comparative calm in Kashmir Valley should not be taken as a permanent success. It is imperative to strengthen the internal security, political and social system in order to taken on the external danger persistently being posed by Pakistan. And holding elections would be a significant step in that direction.