The Quest for Relevance

The Quest for Relevance

There are two possible interpretations of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) rally on its eighteenth Foundation day. One is the party’s quest for relevance and purpose against the context and backdrop of its alliance with the far right party, the BJP and the attendant drift of conditions in Kashmir. The second appears to be in the nature of signaling of the party’s existence. It may be recalled that the PDP emerged as a “mainstream” political force in Kashmir by piggybacking on the dominant narrative and spectrum of politics in Kashmir. This allowed and earned the party some political space in the valley among those who sought a “middle way”. The notions of “self rule” and allied political ideas and themes flowed from this new “political contract” that the PDP offered. But come the year 2014 and the Assembly elections, the PDP besides making much of its political ideas and programs railed and opposed the foray of the far right BJP into Kashmir. But in an unexpected and tragic twist, the PDP allied with these very forces that it had chosen to oppose. This, obviously and naturally, did not go down well with the people of Kashmir. Since the PDP assumed power, the drift and nature of conditions in Kashmir has been such that the PDP’s rule has been precarious if not tenuous. The party has become unpopular and it is associated with negative underpinnings in the political imaginary of Kashmiris. Now, almost into the middle of its term and struggling for political survival, the PDP appears to have felt the need to make a political statement by affirming its existence. While quite a number of people turned up at the rally, but disaggregated, most if not all rally attendees appeared to be party cadre and not the “average” denizens of Kashmir, who appeared to have chosen to stay away. It may be pointed out here that “mainstream” political parties in Kashmir are cadre based parties. The name of the game for these parties is to either create or build this cadre through disbursal of patronage. Thus, it is patronage and other fungible sources that creates this cadres. Ideas, ideals and ideology are not the motivating factors and premised for this cadre. Moreover, the age profile of this cadre is also a noteworthy aspect; the Gen Next of Kashmir is and continues to be animated by other ideas. In the ultimate analysis, politics in Kashmir should neither be a numbers game nor be motivated by mere quest for power. Ideas and Ideals should be the motivating premise for Kashmir’s politics. However, these twin themes are concepts that are far and distant from the political universe and calculus of the ‘mainstream’ political class in Kashmir. They are merely motivated by power and the power political considerations of power. By virtue of this, these parties are distant from the needs and aspirations of people. Hence their need-from time to time- to seek and prove their relevance.

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