The time’s up for the NC and PDP’s deceptive, opportunist politics
Regional politics in Jammu and Kashmir is ambiguous all the year round and it is difficult to say which political party is the most ambiguous, but the August 5 decision has unambiguously changed the political dynamic in the region and rendered the mainstream parties not only directionless and irrelevant, but their very credibility has been hit hard in a federally run territory which once enjoyed a special constitutional position in the Union of India.
Regional political parties, mostly the PDP and National Conference, are still beating their chest and boasting that they are the custodians of Kashmir identity and its culture, and will fight against the decision by all possible political, legal, and strategic means. However, the politics that fell into abeyance in Kashmir on August 5 last year has not yet found any suitable ways of reviving, though mainstream political parties still believe that the people of Jammu and Kashmir have not accepted Delhi’s decision, and blame political vendetta against Kashmir of the BJP’s “politics of vengeance”. On its part, Modi-Shah’s BJP has made it amply clear that vendetta is the cornerstone of its politics and policies. Politically and strategically, when it comes to the fight against the BJP’s August 5 decision, it is a veritable do-or-die situation for regional political parties.
After Omar Abdullah’s tenure and post the 2014 floods when Kashmir again began yearning for political change, Mufti Sayeed became the BJP’s choice as the PDP’s soft separatist platform served as a foil to the BJP’s politics of national integration. And despite a promising start with the swearing-in ceremony of Mufti Muhammad Sayeed as chief minister of the new coalition government, in the presence of Mr Modi, the late Mufti on the same day credited Pakistan for the peaceful polls in Kashmir and thanked militants and separatists for allowing smooth elections. This was Mufti’s first major blow to the trust put in him by the top leadership of the BJP, and of course the RSS. Mufti again managed in November 2015 to rile Modi at a public meeting in Srinagar when he advocated talks with Pakistan. Both parties were at variance from day one, differences which ultimately snowballed into a divorce.
Delhi’s apprehensions of Mufti’s proximity with the Hurriyat led to a backlash in which the Modi government called off Indo-Pak foreign secretary- level talks when the Pakistani High Commissioner met Kashmiri separatists on August 19, 2014. Let us presume for a while that Sayeed was not treacherous to the Indian state, but he was not nationalist in essence either. Rather, he was a self-obsessed and highly ambitious politician like Farooq Abdullah. It might be hard to believe that in the world’s largest democracy you take an oath for protecting the country’s sovereignty and integrity in the morning and the same day in the evening you are discrediting its own sovereign and democratic institutions. From the moral point of view, was it Mufti’s betrayal of trust or not? Is it not hypocritical to take one line in private, then change or deny it in public? Such betrayals weaken or destroy the trust that is vital to political and democratic institutions. Mehbooba Mufti, too, could not deliver during her tenure and her separatist tendencies compelled the BJP to break its alliance with the PDP.
Someone has rightly said, Great leaders don’t force people to follow, they invite them on the journey. Farooq Abdullah, whose nationalistic and secular credentials can never be doubted, in a recent interview to Karan Thapar asserted his commitment towards taking the fight against the August 5 decision to its logical and legitimate end. It reminded me of Amin Malouk’s book, ‘The Crusades Through Arab Eyes’, in which Malouk writes that every Arab chieftain saw the crusades as an opportunity to deal with local enemies. The Gupkar deal between regional political parties is based on their common fear of BJP and the denial of political voice to a vast population in the region. However, Abdullah’s deviation from the Gupkar Declaration in Parliament is clear manifestation of the NC’s hypocrisy and doublespeak. Farooq Abdullah was expected to speak in Parliament about the restoration of statehood and special status of Jammu and Kashmir, but he very cleverly shifted public attention from the Gupkar Declaration to the Shopian fake encounter and the issue of restoration of 4G internet services. Abdullah’s silence in the country’s Parliament on the Gupkar resolve is just doublespeak and deception. It would be better for the political stalwart to accept that the ball is out of his court and it is not only difficult but impossible to turn the clock back.
Regional political parties, especially the PDP and National Conference, have tried hard to suggest that they thought Prime Minister Modi will pick up the threads of Vajpayee’s peace process, and later they realised that Modi is no Vajpayee. If the majority of people in Kashmir still decide to believe NCs and PDP’s cock-and-bull story, then the people of Kashmir are the most gullible population in the world. These mainstream parties could have earlier mustered popular support for their fake promises to cut the Gordian knot with Delhi, but now it would be a herculean task for them to wrest back the political turf and maintain their hegemony. For all practical purposes, most of them seem to have reconciled to the abrogation of Article 370.
—The writer is a journalist. [email protected]