Development Card BJP's Best Bet to Stop the Kashmir Valley from Drifting
Experiments in political engineering can throw up strange results, as seen in Jammu and Kashmir. In January last year, keeping aside its ‘non-negotiable’ nationalistic ideology, the BJP decided to strike an experimental deal with the pro-separatist Peoples’ Democratic Party of the late Mufti Mohammad Sayeed. Now, after 14 months, the BJP seems to have discovered something rotten in both the taste and odour of the power it has consumed in the state. The experiment of fusion politics, mixing nationalism with separatism, has proven to be a recipe for disaster. Ever since the Mufti died two months ago, his successor Mehbooba Mufti and the BJP leadership have been holding both public and secret parleys to revive the dead alliance. Officially, they have been exuding confidence about the formation of the new coalition government, and yet both have been talking about the lack of a confidence-building road map for a political reunion.
Any alliance made on the basis of convenience rather than conviction, collapses sooner than later. In a state like Jammu and Kashmir, where a love for money and romance with extra-territorial ideas dictate the political narrative, any formation which threatens established social and political order is bound to fail. The BJP has been unsuccessful in imposing its brand of politics and societal practices on the PDP, which survives by supporting and feeding those who oppose the Valley’s integration with India.
The tug of war between the PDP and BJP is not just for grabbing proprietary right to a few power plants or any special package. It is a confrontation of two ideologies and the idea of India. Mehbooba wants J&K to remain emotionally separate from India while the BJP wants to erase all legal, social and economic hurdles and make the Valley a part of the national mainstream.
By joining hands with the PDP, both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP Chief Amit Shah expected to restore the secular character of the Valley. They thought they could push the state government to facilitate the safe return of the Kashmiri Pundits, with full liberty to do business and participate in the electoral process. The Centre linked the entire economic package and phased withdrawal of the armed forces with the rehabilitation of the Kashmir Pundits and the tightening of the noose around separatists. But Mehbooba is no Mufti, who could survive on his own charisma and credibility. Indeed, she has acquired political legitimacy only by pandering to the sentiments and tears of those whose relatives have died while participating in attacks on civilians and Indian Army personnel. She has realised that by staying with the BJP, she will lose her traditional support base.
The current constitutional crisis in the Valley is also a manifestation of the confrontation between two political dynasties led by Mehbooba and Omar Abdullah. Both of them are competing with each other in painting the BJP as a threat to the autonomy and welfare of the Kashmiri people. Both of them are determined to marginalise the role of national parties such as the Congress and BJP. While the Abdullahs have been a part of national politics, Mehbooba has always confined herself to the Valley. The Abdullahs also enjoy the support of a small section of the Hindu minority in the Valley and Jammu region while Mufti survives only on Muslim backing in the Valley.
It is, however, the complete failure of both the Congress and BJP to erode the core constituency of the National Conference (NC) and PDP. Even after 69 years of Independence, a substantial majority of Kashmiris are hostile to the idea of calling themselves Indian. The Congress has ruled the state for 12 years alone and over 50 years as part of a coalition or with the support of a regional party. The Abdullahs ran the state for over two decades. If one includes 10 years of Congress-backed NC rebel Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad, the NC was in command of the sensitive state for almost 30 years.
Pakistan has never accepted the reality of Jammu and Kashmir as part of the Indian Republic, and till 1990, has supported and financed the separatists. When it failed to destabilise the state, it started armed infiltration and used local operatives to bomb and kill civilians and army personnel. The Centre’s attempt to use governors for neutralising extreme elements also failed. Even the current governor Narendra Nath Vohra, a favourite of every party, has not succeeded in diluting the impact of the separatists by ensuring proper development of the state by using his charm over the local government. On the other hand, Pakistan’s objective was to halt the economic development of the state and sow the seeds of terror. It has succeeded. In spite of liberal money flow from New Delhi, the state’s GDP rose by less than 1 per cent during 2014-15 down from over 13 per cent the previous year. The lack of development and misuse of funds have generated more unemployment and have pushed the youth into the hands of anti-national elements.
But development has never been a glue that’s bonded ideologically opposed political parties. With Pakistan in a mood to talk, the best solution open for the BJP is to play the development card, treat separatists as enemies of the state, and appoint a governor who bothers far more about greater governance rather than his own survival. In the past seven decades, instead of coming closer to India, the Valley has drifted into the black hole of politics of opportunism and convenience. If matters remain the way they are, the black hole will seal itself and darkness will endlessly prevail.
PS: Last week I wrote about why Modi adores Sri Sri. Last week, Art of Living Guru took to Twitter to prove his worldwide acceptability. He tweeted twice as follows:
19/03/16, 1:35 am: The World Culture Festival had 767,436 locations in 188 countries viewing the webcast according to our webcast partner, Livestream’s report.
The social media partner reported 1.4 bn impressions on Twitter & 30 mn engagements on Facebook during the World Culture Festival.
For Modi, visibility on social media is an accelerator that keeps him going.
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