Jammu and Kashmir: House dissolution revives ‘manipulative Delhi’ image

Governor Satya Pal Malik’s decision to abruptly dissolve the Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Assembly, two years prematurely, has left a trail of suspicion and bad blood in Kashmir against New Delhi

PTI Photo
PTI Photo

Aasha Khosa

Governor Satya Pal Malik’s decision to abruptly dissolve the Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Assembly, two years prematurely, has left a trail of suspicion and bad blood in Kashmir against New Delhi and given a fresh cause to all those who claim democracy in the Muslim-dominant State has always been manipulated.

The buzz on social media and political circles is that Governor Malik has taken the decision on instructions from New Delhi as the erstwhile rivals – National Conference, Peoples’ Democratic Party and the Congress – were contemplating a common front against BJP. Though by all political reckoning, the coming together of these parties seemed to be a far-fetched possibility, yet the perception that Delhi has, again, had taken to using a remote control for the political situation in the terrorism-affected state is sure to stay on for a long time.

This impression surely does not augur well for the situation in Kashmir that remains fragile and just needs a trigger for a flare-up. As per Army, about 160 well-trained and armed to teeth terrorists are waiting across the Line of Control (LOC) to sneak into Kashmir for escalating violence and given the fresh bout of mistrust against Delhi, the India-bashers and overground workers of terrorist organisations would have a field day, leading to further complications for counterterrorism forces.

Governor’s decision may be in the interests of democracy for he was apprehending “horse trading, money exchanging hands in lieu of political support etc” but the way the entire episode was handled has hurt local political parties like National Conference and even Congress. BJP’s Kashmir handler Ram Madhav’s loose talk about Pakistan being behind the coming together of NC, PDP and Congress for government formation have left a controversy that is unlikely to die soon.

Both Madhav and NC leader Omar Abdullah have taken their fight to the public through social media.

There is a good possibility that elections in J&K may be held in the spring along the Lok Sabha elections and in that case, the party that may suffer the worst is the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) led by Mehbooba Mufti. Reports even suggest that her party is at the verge of disintegration given the backlash it faces for its most unpopular decision of joining hands with BJP in 2014.

In fact, Mehbooba Mufti seems to be lonely at the top; her filmmaker brother Tassaduq Mufti has deserted the ship; many of her colleagues are openly rebelling against her while others are waiting for an opportunity to leave. Muzaffar Hussain Beg, party’s MP from Baramulla, has openly said he was against her decision of boycotting the Municipal and panchayat election and that he would happily support Sajjad Lone as chief minister.

BJP is in no great shape in its bastion of Jammu where it had won 25 seats in the 2014 elections. The party faces peoples’ anger for not doing enough for the region while in power. In Ladakh, where the saffron party had gained a decent foothold the resignation of party MP Thupstan Chewang does not augur well for it. Thupstan is a tall and respected Ladakhi leader and his resignation months before the Lok Sabha elections is a pointer to resentment among the people of the cold desert.

Congress and National Conference parties have a pan-J&K presence and both could stand to gain in case of election.

However, the most important person to be watched in J&K is Sajjad Lone, the 51-year-old separatist turned nationalist, who is BJP’s blue-eyed boy in Kashmir. Madhav is in charge of grooming Lone as a leader, who, many feels could be made chief minister if BJP does well in elections.

Lone who just heads a small party which had two legislators in the Assembly had emerged a kingmaker during the election of former NC leader Junaid Mattu as Mayor for Srinagar Municipal Corporation. His party – Peoples’ Conference – has done well in the Municipal and Panchayat elections from Srinagar and Kupwara, north Kashmir. Lone has never hidden his love for BJP and openly supports BJP’s agenda for overthrowing the political dynasties of Sheikhs and Muftis from Kashmir.

BJP and PC have an open alliance against NC and PDP in Kashmir and it would be interesting to see how this pans out in near future.

Besides, Kashmir’s political scene is likely to throw up a lot of heat and dust as a petition challenging Article 35A of the Constitution is coming up for hearing in Supreme Court in January. The Kashmir-based political parties like NC and PDP had boycotted the local body elections on this issue as they see the petition as BJP’s conspiracy to diminish the special status of J&K State.

Sources in BJP say that Governor Malik’s administration is likely to continue unearthing cases of embezzlement and corruption against past rulers, mainly leaders of NC and PDP. This, as per their estimation, could help BJP and its allies gain foothold and legitimacy in Kashmir.

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