Partners in the state’s ruling coalition, the Congress and the National Conference, have announced themselves allies in the forthcoming parliamentary elections as well. The arrangement is that the NC would contest all the three parliamentary constituencies in Kashmir, while the Congress would vie for the two in Jammu and the lone seat in Ladakh. Needless to say, this has become possible because of the personal interest of Rahul Gandhi and his all-powerful mother, Sonia. Significantly, even as the polls draw close, political fervour seems to be missing, particularly in Kashmir. It could have something to do with the heavy March snowfall, but no one should bet on that.
Though the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) has fielded heavyweight candidates against the National Conference, it is generally believed that parliamentary elections hold no great importance here, given the winners’ – mostly from the NC – ineffectual performance on any major issue concerning Kashmir. As it is, three members from the Valley would hardly have a bearing on the course in a 500-plus parliament. So, what virtually amounts to “sending” people to the Lok Sabha is either a political holiday or political exile. The recently-reaffirmed NC-Congress alliance, therefore, has had no political or emotional appeal, even among the cadres of the National Conference. It, however, has other meanings, when seen in the wider political perspective.
On the face of it, it appears as if the Congress has given the NC a fair deal by conceding the three seats of the Kashmir Valley. In fact, the deal is not so permanent, because if the National Conference loses at least two seats, most probably of Anantnag and Baramulla, to the PDP, it could be a strong indicator for the assembly polls, for which alliances could be rearranged by the Congress. Thus, the Congress has put the National Conference to a test, because the latter is traditionally on a stronger wicket in the Valley where the former can hope to do little electorally. And the Congress has actually snatched Ladakh from its partner, and squeezed it further by keeping the two seats in Jammu for itself. The alliance would have been meaningful had it shared seats in each province, which is not the case.
The political banishment of the National Conference from Ladakh and Jammu has far-reaching political consequences for the party. This is in accordance with the grand political design where power has been permanently shifted to Jammu because the so-called national parties, be it the Congress or the BJP, have strong bases in that region. Thus, any party from the Valley would always have to share power with a Jammu party. This has become possible because of the vertical division of the political structure in Kashmir. The National Congress and the PDP have split the Valley’s political fabric, and there is no possibility of fusion in the near future because the division is strategically nurtured by New Delhi through its “good pro-India, bad pro-India” political theory and practice.
Since both the National Conference and the PDP are pro-India political parties, both can’t share power with any national party (Congress or the BJP) that could be ready for an alliance at the winning edge of the electoral game. Only a good pro-India political party can be accepted. This much should be remembered: that being good or bad is not a permanent state, but a fluid situation. It is the giving capacity of a pro-India Kashmir party which makes it a good pro-India party.
When the National Conference cries for autonomy (never by heart or deed), passes a resolution as in 2000 (it could have passed a bill) and other similar gambits, it made itself bad pro-India. And the PDP came along on the political scene. It gave away the already much-separated Ladakh, passed the Land Transfer decision, the Women’s Bill, the Roshni Act, ensured permanent quarters for the CRPF and 8 percent district-wise reservation for Hindu SCs in the valley – it was good pro-India. But other things made it bad pro-India, like demanding demilitarization, showing a certain concern for Muslims both within and outside Kashmir, seeking the resolution of the Kashmir issue and friendly relations with Pakistan. If nothing else, its election symbol of pen-and-inkpot with a green flag was bound to make it a bad pro-India party.
Then the National Conference’s good pro-India qualities surfaced. It sold water resources and power houses to the NHPC, enacted the Hindu Shrine Boards Bill, lavished land on Army camps, dithered on the AFSPA, swallowed down 118 youth in 2010, and punched holes in Autonomy even by passing the 73rd Amendment.
This is not the end of the good pro-India, bad pro-India politics. It is in fact the beginning of the new strategy. The more a political party concedes to the “national interest,” howsoever anti-Kashmiri the move may be, the more good pro-India it will be. The new Congress-NC alliance is another milestone in this direction.