Article 370: Thou shall not Speak Sine Die!

Article 370: Thou shall not Speak Sine Die!

In the tragicomic fallout and reaction to Mehbooba Mufti’s remarks in the Legislative Assembly wherein she had said that, ‘those opposing Article 370 were anti-national’, the Assembly morphed into a niggling and nit picking arena. The Speaker of the Assembly sought to expunge Mehbooba’s remarks and in the outrage that ensued, the Assembly was adjourned sine die. What is remarkable about the saga is the Speaker’s unprecedented attempts to expunge Mehbooba’s remarks. This raises a litany of questions: where does real power and authority lie in the BJP –PDP coalition government? Has the Chief Minister’s office and stature been demeaned by the Speaker? And, last but not the least, what does the saga tell us about the coalition in contention? A digression is warranted here. The adjournment of the Assembly may have been done in order to stave the controversy and outrage that would ensue in the House after the Speaker’s unwarranted intervention to expunge Mehbooba’s remarks. While this is speculation but what appears to be clear is that the artificial and inorganic nature of the BJP- PDP coalition is coming out in the open. The two parties are like chalk and cheese with different and differing agendas for Jammu and Kashmir. The ostensible premises dished out to the public for the formation of this alliance or coalition cannot obscure the more elemental reason for the coalition: it appears to have been forged for power political reasons. But, like all such artificially cemented coalitions, power politics does not seem to suffice to keep it cohesive and coherent. One dimension of this is the locus of power in the coalition government. Apparently, the Speaker’s attempts to expunge Mehbooba’s remarks suggest that he was emboldened to expunge in disregard of the formal structures and processes of the Government. This has obvious implications for the Chief Minister’s office and power. However, now that the genie of Article 370 is out in the open and controversy which questions the nature of power and suggests the frailty of the coalition government are all out in the public domain, common sense and prudence would suggest that the mainstream parties – especially the PDP- take a stand. This would entail a robust and vigorous defense of Article 370 and all that it entails. There would be obvious prices to pay but as the old saying goes, ‘there is such thing as a free lunch’. It is about time that mainstream political class then demonstrates that there is more to them than mere power.

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