It is not the weathercock that changes, it is the wind.
– C. Desmoulins
What is next? Electricity 24X7 and, perhaps, free? Indeed, by the way the National Conference is bending over backwards to woo people, anything is possible. In any case, such measures are temporary. Once you are back in the driving seat, it is no big deal applying the reverse gear. It has been done before and it will be done in the future as well. It is not that the people matter, it is just that no other alternatives remain. For nearly six years the party thought that it just had to keep its powerful ally at the centre in good humour for an assured victory regardless of whether people vote or not. But alas, who had thought that winds would change direction and that too in such a drastic manner. It was the inability of the party to foresee this fact rather than its inability to gauge the feelings of the local population that led to its debacle. The issue has gone public only because the major stakeholder in the coalition enterprise has been declared bankrupt. It is the near extinction of the Congress during the recent parliamentary elections that has set off alarm bells in the NC leadership rather than the drubbing they themselves received.
What is being witnessed is certainly not a change of heart but of strategy, a desperate bid to salvage something out of the wreckage. Public memory is notoriously short but it seems that memories of politicians are probably even shorter or maybe this amnesia is just one more political stratagem. In the run-up to the parliamentary polls, the NC cried itself hoarse about the BJP-PDP nexus, conveniently forgetting that it was a part of this very coalition and stuck to its ministerial berth even in the aftermath of the Gujarat carnage. The present genuflections of the NC are reminiscent of 2008 when the party, which had been almost written off, prostrated itself before the general public, asking for a chance to redeem itself, and yet, once it assumed power it treated the same public with utter contempt.
The fact that the party leader is now claiming nirvana after having perused a couple of hundred emails would be a joke only if it were not so pathetic. In cyberspace too the keypad-happy party leader kept up a monologue and any opposition even in the virtual world was crushed mercilessly. This government has the dubious distinction of extending crackdowns to the cyberspace even, the latest of these being during the recent parliamentary polls. In fact if there is anything the coalition government will be remembered for, it is the use of unwarranted force. The hapless population was even force-fed a music concert, and that day too was marked by relentless restrictions and ruthless killing. Then again, every time a killing took place,the authoritarian regime responded with a freeze, even mobile networks and the internet would be frozen for days. The decision to lift the ban on SMS only serves as a vivid reminder.
The measures the party has come up with are too little and too late, and then again lack any real substance. Scrapping the new recruitment policy has come at the cost of further reduction in the plan funds which were already in a state of curtailment. So it is just a case of robbing Peter to pay Paul. Apologies on the Afzal Guru hanging are meaningless in light of the fact that even though the party was hand-in-glove with the party in power at the centre, it could not even bring the mortal remains of Guru back to his native village. And yet the same party had the temerity to ask for votes in the name of its coalition partner which sacrificed Afzal Guru at the altar of electoral politics. If the NC shrugs off responsibility in the matter on the basis of its inability to stop the hanging, or its helplessness in bringing back Guru’s mortal remains, it has to accept incompetence even if it denies collusion in the matter. It is impossible to reverse the hanging and, with a new regime at the centre, too late even to get his mortal remains back. So, any regret in the matter is in vain.
A small but significant report appeared in a leading Srinagar daily regarding the party having approached a top police officer for some ‘unofficial’ help during elections, as has been the norm, but change was already in the air and this ‘unofficial’ help was refused. It is obvious that prior to its ignominious defeat in the elections it was something else rather than the support of the people that the party was banking on. It is probably with this miscalculated ‘security’ that the NC remained confident in its callousness during the years it was in office. It was only that times had changed, and this time around the dice are loaded against it. No amount of introspection or genuflection is going to change that.