By Wajahat Qazi
As the controversy over Article 370- a provision that grants special status to Jammu and Kashmir- is raked up and a ruckus generated over it, it appears that the issue might turn out to be the lightning rod that throws the state and its politics into a tizzy. The wild card here would be elections in the Hindi heartland- Uttar Pradesh (UP). An n number of variables, lack lustre opposition and a tepid media, among other things make the BJP – the far right nationalist party- the favourite to win the elections in UP. An electoral victory in UP would give the BJP majority in both houses of the parliament. In this sense, Uttar Pradesh –given its size and the number of seats it has, becomes the swing state in India’s electoral scene. Electoral mathematics would allow the BJP wide leeway and latitude to tinker or even develop paradigm shattering political strategies. The knock -out blow, so to speak , will be altering Jammu and Kashmir’s special status by corroding Article 370.
There are other factors which suggest that the BJP might go full throttle in abrogating Article 370. The party’s dismal governance performance is at odds with the extravagant pre- election rhetoric and promises it made to the people. Throw in the woes generated by demonetization, the picture looks bleak for the far right party. Another factor that lends weight to the assessment in contention is that the core constituent or the political agglomeration that the BJP draws its sustenance from- the Sangh Parivar( the RSS and the VHP)- has a clear view about Kashmir and Article 370. The Sangh Parivar’s core agenda is to abrogate Article 370. Both its ideologues and cadre would be impatient with the BJP about its stance over the article in contention.
Added up, all this means that the sling shot in the BJP’s armoury , so to speak, would be abrogation of Article 370 to obscure its governance and performance failures and to satisfy its core constituents- the Sangh Parivar. This move would also allow the BJP to reconnect to the populace across India in a more vigorous idiom of Hindu nationalism or Hindutva. The opposition or whatever is left of it would be left on the defensive and the BJP would ride the waves of popularity to another landslide electoral victory.
The key variable here is time. That is, when would the far right party opt for this potential program of action? Most likely, it could be a year or so before the General elections. But , this analysis, so far ignores the impact and implications on local politics- that is, the politics and political condition of Jammu and Kashmir. A scenario analysis might illustrate both the implications and the impact. If and when the BJP goes for the final kill, so to speak, re Article 370, its coalition partner in Jammu and Kashmir, would be left exposed and vulnerable to this political gale. If the PDP, plays along and continues with the coalition with the BJP, the party’s future would be at stake. Given this, the PDP could, or would, in all likelihood, would call for an opt out from the coalition government. The party will, if this scenario pans, out, make much out of it and attempt to reconnect to the people of Kashmir by making political capital out of the opt out. While this will not ensure a landslide for the PDP in Kashmir, but it would retain enough seat share to survive. The BJP , in the Jammu division of the state, would do the same and attempt to cannibalize government and coalition disintegration to maintain its seat and vote share.
In this melee or political maelstrom, unrest and violence will descend upon Kashmir again. Government break down or disintegration will be a prompt for fresh elections in Jammu and Kashmir. Again, this will be accompanied by violence. This will cast a deep shadow on Kashmir and its hapless citizens. Of course, the scenario developed and delineated here is a scenario. But what lends poignancy and plausibility to this scenario is the lack of other alternatives and the choices that major political players have. Kashmir will , unfortunately, again fall victim to the caprice of larger forces and powers and the conflict will only exacerbate and intensify. This constitutes both a tragedy and travesty for the people of Kashmir- a people upon which a conflict has been foisted upon and intensified over the years for political gains by vested interests and larger forces.
Can, the question is, this scenario be pre-empted and foiled? Yes. Eminently so. But this would call for statesmanship, prudence, sagacity and rising above and over parochial interests. Will this be forthcoming? Reading the tea leaves about the political condition and drift in India, Kashmir and even in terms of international relations suggests the converse. The hapless denizens of Kashmir will then be victims again of prurient politics and politicking over prudence and statecraft. This, in the final analysis, constitutes the tragedy of Kashmir- both historically and contemporarily. Alas!
—The author can be reached at: [email protected]