In the last few weeks as the hapless populace of this conflict torn land remained cooped up as a result of yet another wave of oppression and tyranny, the ‘representatives’ of this very populace were busy putting up a show of democracy in the assembly.
The people with nothing better to do, as curfewed days stretched on, were reduced to unwitting spectators showcasing ‘democracy’ played out on their TV screens. However, it was quite evident that even this showcase-democracy was pretty dysfunctional. The local constituent of the ruling coalition bewailed its helplessness as it has been since its dawn here.
Once again, it came across that their plight is not any different from that of the emasculated royalty, the assortment of Rajahs and Nawabs that ‘ruled’ under the sponsorship of colonial masters during the British rule of India. Theirs is the pomp and finery, the meticulously apportioned gun-salute and nothing else. The members of the other constituent of this coalition, which enjoys the power of being the sponsor of the whole show, maintained a smug silence secure in their well-founded belief that it is the pleasure of their bosses at the center which matters rather than that of the masses they supposedly represent.
The attitude and reactions of the two coalition partners, along with other freelancers, who exist as an addendum to this coalition, is understandable. What could have caused chagrin is the attitude and actions of the main opposition party in the legislature, but even that does not exactly defy comprehension.
In Kashmir, democracy remains a carefully choreographed affair with a well-crafted script and deftly assigned roles. Even the ‘exit-as-protest’ of the opposition party is not a deviation from this script but a faithfully executed part of it
In an ideal democracy, the opposition has an equal role in managing the state of affairs of the government. In fact, the opposition has an even greater role considering that it is not only responsible for voicing the concerns of the people who have voted for it, but also it is the force that can hold the ruling benches to account and ensure that they don’t go against the interests of the common man.
Of course this is so far as a utopian model of democracy goes. In the real world, more often than not, the outsider-within, that the opposition is, addresses its own interests rather than those of the people and when the two clash it is anybody’s guess as to what takes precedence. Invariably, the opposition most of the time instead of pulling up the ruling party on issues of the electorate that has given them the mandate are more busy trying to pull down the ruling party.
This desire of the opposition for occupying the ruling benches is not only natural but quite legitimate as well, especially considering that the ostensible objective of this desire is to provide a better alternative to the electorate. In most democratic set ups, the opposition seeks to achieve this objective by consistently presenting itself as a better option all the while ensuring by default that the ruling party remains on its toes.
In a dysfunctional contrived democracy like what exists in Kashmir, the opposition is also bound to fall in line and become dysfunctional as has been time and again demonstrated by PDP, the main opposition party in the legislature. Having itself been a part of the coalition and having future aspirations towards the same end, this party is more of a possible-partner, an ally-in-waiting for the decisive component of the ruling coalition. This in itself is enough to make its functioning lop-sided as it has to tread a precarious path fine-tuning its opposition and ensuring that it remains directed towards the rival ‘constituent’ of the ruling coalition rather than towards its entirety.
As a result it has been reduced to having mere nuisance value with the sole objective of needling the ‘rival’ constituent. This not only serves the interests of the opposition party itself but also that of the ‘sponsoring’ constituent of the coalition as it ensures that the ‘rival’ constituent kept in a state of perennial agitation stays on a tight leash.
When an issue comes up, which if pursued is likely to cause embarrassment to the ‘sponsoring’ partner the opposition PDP conveniently adopts boycott as a means of protest. This serves as a showdown and yet at the same time the agenda of the ‘sponsoring’ constituent remains unhindered.
In Kashmir, democracy remains a carefully choreographed affair with a well-crafted script and carefully assigned roles. Even the ‘exit-as-protest’ of the opposition party is not a deviation from this script but very much a part of it.
Thus there are no heroes or villains in this political drama, but only actors with carefully rehearsed lines. The show has been running for a pretty long time and it seems to be destined to run forever. The actors are dispensable but the script remains more or less unchanged with pawns in it shifting places.