A Mirthless Comedy

The PDP-NC war has all the ingredients of slap-stick comedy. It is a wonder that the two haven’t blamed each other for Kashmir’s prevailing weather and incessant rains. But they will get around to it too – by and by. Both parties accuse each other of killing militants. What they choose to ignore is the fact that when either of them was in power it was a part of their mandate – a mandate given by the center that is – to curb militancy and the separatist sentiment in the valley. And yet, if the two parties were to participate in a debate they would even cite the number of militants killed against each other, even if they concede that they both did it. A score card of sorts to show which party was more benign, or to put it bluntly, which party was the lesser evil.
The NC ‘credits’ the PDP with the creation of Syed Salahuddin, and the PDP hits back by saying that it was the NC’s election manipulation that did it. Then, in a total reversal of roles, the two parties attack each other for their links with the BJP. The NC calls the PDP a creation of the BJP and the NC levels allegations of collusion between the two parties conveniently forgetting its own liaison with the same party in the not-so-distant past. In fact, the present President of the state Congress, who was a sitting MP of the NC, was expelled from the party itself when he chose to withdraw his support to the NDA government, which incidentally led to its downfall. Besides, just prior to the latest renewal of ties between the Congress and the NC, resulting more from the Congress finding itself in a tight corner than anything else, the NC too was seen making coquettish gestures towards the BJP. But then such twists and turns are not unknown in Kashmir politics. In fact, it will be quite interesting to see what the parties would be saying post-election, especially if a Modi Sarkar really materializes.
Battles between the two parties were the high point of the six years of this government, the only high point when one comes to think of it. Now with parliamentary elections in progress and assembly polls just round the corner, the battle has turned into a full scale war, in fact it has entered the final moments of a war when the fighting reaches the streets and becomes hand-to-hand combat. The fortunes of the NC are on the ascendant at the moment and it is agog with excitement, sensing as it does an opportunity to deliver a coup de grace to the PDP, while the PDP, bitter as a jilted lover, is fighting for its very survival. Not that there aren’t apprehensions on either side about what the post-election scenario would be. Of course, the war between the two parties is a war dictated by the instinct of self preservation rather than being based on any real issues. Both parties have nothing to offer the electorate except hollow promises like the PDP’s claim to solve the Kashmir issue if voted to power. As for the NC, it always has the good old Autonomy issue to fall back on.
All said and done, the two parties are as alike as peas in a pod. Same old wine albeit in two differently coloured bottles. No doubt, in the heat of the moment, made hotter by the dwindling fortunes of the Congress party on the national stock market, the PDP has at last started to attack the Congress, though all these years it has been careful to keep it in good humour, blaming its rival party for all evils, real as well as imaginary. As for the Congress, it remains a winner both ways as it retains the choice to consort with either of the Kashmir rivals. The masses, as always, are like extras in a Bollywood song, part of the background scenery and totally dispensable. In fact, Kashmir must be the only place on earth where contesting parties hope that the electorate doesn’t vote rather than it does. Lower the number of votes cast the better it is, because the minority that does vote is easier to influence and control.
Kashmir just does not look like a place going to polls within days. If anything, election campaigning is conspicuous by its very absence. Nothing strange about that, for the ‘democratic process’ in Kashmir is as exclusive as Shalimar Bagh’s Zubin Mehta concert, meant only for a select few – the majority being distant bystanders, out of earshot. Meanwhile the slap-stick comedy between the PDP and the NC continues even though there are no takers for it. Indeed, the ‘democratic process’ in Kashmir would be a blockbuster only if it were not so pathetic.