A story goes that a pig once expressed its anguish over the fact that while it provides nourishment for people in the form of pork it is hated and yet the cow which too gives nourishment in the form of milk is loved by the people. It was explained to the pig that a cow gives milk while it is still alive but you get the meat only after a pig is killed which explains the reason why while the cow is a popular animal, the pig remains hated with its very name being a term of derision for even those for whom pork is not forbidden and who relish it. The story could very well serve as a parable for the penitent CM and the ruling coalition in Kashmir which has been bending over backwards to woo back the electorate after the drubbing it got in the recent parliamentary elections.
A slew of measures have been announced to appease the local population. Enhancement in retirement age, roll back of new recruitment policy, revoking the ban on sms for pre-paid mobile services, possible lifting of restrictions on local cable news networks – the list continues to grow. It is however unlikely that these measures will make any significant change to the popularity rating of the ruling parties. In fact if anything these will only serve as a reminder of the negative policies that the coalition followed during most of its tenure. People can’t be expected to be grateful for the measures that the state government has announced because in a way these are a mere restoration of what was there already or what was due and had been withheld. The measures taken will at best be viewed as a measure of desperation of the ruling coalition, a desperation that is made even more evident by the squabbling between the two coalition partners as both of them try to outdo each other in claiming exclusive credit for these sops.
The two parties not only failed to deliver but hold no future promise as well which could woo the electorate. Add to this the fact that not only has the failure to deliver meant that the performance graph of these parties has remained a flat line but the line has actually plunged in the negative direction because of the oppression and corruption that was a hall mark of their years in power. Even as such a mainstream politician in Kashmir starts with an inherent disadvantage. The overriding local sentiment regarding the disputed status of the place makes any mainstream politician an object of suspicion and even derision. The only redeeming factor for a mainstream politician would be if he could at least provide clean governance. This would perhaps ensure some degree of acceptance among the local population and maybe even an amount of grudging admiration. Ghulam Nabi Azad would be an apt example in this regard of course up to a point. Even though he has always had a ‘more loyal than the king’ approach towards his masters in New Delhi it is also true that his three years of power have been viewed rather favorably by the local population especially in comparison to other mainstream players.
In its campaign prior to the previous assembly elections the National Conference had put forth its appeal for votes in the name of good governance only. In spite of the general hostility against the party once it did manage to form a government in coalition with the Congress there was some degree of optimism about the new Chief Minister who was viewed as a possible change from the old guard. But this optimism did not last long. The coalition proved to be a disaster and there was not only complete disconnect with the people but also the Chief Minister could not manage the various crises that erupted during his tenure. Arrogance on top of inefficiency added insult to the injury. Instead of good governance what people got and suffered through was ineptness, corruption and utter callousness. The CM went on record spelling out that corruption was one of the compulsions of coalition politics. This candour did him no credit though because being at the helm of affairs he could not shrug off responsibility. Pretty soon it became evident that he was not in control and what is more that did not seem to bother him so long as his status remained undisturbed.
It is too late to make amends and efforts at appeasement are not going to yield anything. There doesn’t seem much scope in making sheep’s’ eyes at New Delhi either at least for the time being. If there are any lessons for firstname.lastname@example.org in all this it is that the party needs to get above considerations of power and espouse some real issues if it is to survive. Now that would be a miracle if it ever happens but then so would be the party’s coming to power in near future.