Modi rally stirs up the stagnant waters of J&K politics

With the Lok Sabha elections due early next year, the political parties in Jammu and Kashmir have started their realignments to grab maximum out of the fluid political situation in the state.

While the recent massive public rally of BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi in Jammu has given sleepless nights to the Congress leadership in the state, it has at least eased the nerves of regional parties – ruling National Conference (NC) and main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Congress which till a few months ago was sure of winning two parliament constituencies and a majority of the Assembly seats from Jammu region is now in a state of depression.

The BJP riding high on the Modi wave expects to dislodge Congress from two Lok Sabha seats in Jammu region and it also expects either to retain its tally of 11 seats in the Assembly or do better than in 2008. BJP had its support-base across the Jammu province which could be seen from the fact that the party won the Kathua-Udhampur-Doda Lok Sabha parliamentary constituency three times in a row between 1996 and 1999 while it won the Jammu-Poonch parliamentary constituency twice in a row during the same period with an impressive margin. The party might have suffered erosion in its support-base after 2004 for various reasons, but to say that it has become irrelevant in the Jammu’s political arena would be a mistake.

The Congress was expected to emerge as a single largest party after the Assembly polls due later next year. It would have been a setback to both the NC and the PDP as either of the two would have to become ‘B-team’ of Congress in the formation of next government in the state. However, after recent rally of Modi in Jammu, Congress leadership is finding it extremely difficult to come to terms with it.

Both the Congress and the BJP would find it difficult to win any seats in Kashmir valley which leaves the field open to NC and PDP. While PDP is expected to do better in Anantnag-Pulwama parliament constituency this time, NC will hope it retains Srinagar-Budgam and Barmaulla-Kupwara seats in the Valley. In Assembly polls both the parties are expected to win a majority of the 46 seats from the Valley. Political observers believe NC could go down from its present tally of 28 seats in the Assembly while PDP which has 21 members is expected to touch the tally of 25 seats in 2014.

The ruling coalition of NC and Congress which took over the reigns of the state after the Assembly elections which were held in the aftermath of 2008 Amarnath land row changed the whole political equation inside mainstream political camp. The bonhomie in coalition is in tact even after years of turbulence and internal strife. But now at its fag end the alliance looks like a marriage of ‘connivance.’ For the last more than one year the coalition partners are not behaving symbiotically and much of their precious time otherwise meant for governance is wasted in browbeating each other to score political points.

PDP sitting on the fence explores and exploits every situation of strife within the coalition to its political advantage bothering least about its role as watchdog within the democratic system. Though mainstream political outfits stand united against the separatist camp’s plans of election boycott, among themselves they are unable to compromise on the issue of power sharing.

Though leading mainstream political parties in Jammu & Kashmir make tall claims of forming the next government in the state on their own, the ground reality belies their claims. The ruling NC headed by chief minister Omar Abdullah, a year back unilaterally had offered to have pre-poll alliance with Congress, without any response from the later. On 21 May this year, NC senior leader and state’s Rural Development Minister Ali Mohammad Sagar made one more unilateral offer to moderate Hurriyat Chairman Miwaiz Umar Farooq for alliance which was out rightly rejected by the latter.

Similarly, the PDP led by former Union home minister and former chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed is also in search of allies whether pre-poll or post poll. Publicly, this party also claims to form the next government in the state independently on its own. However, its own acts suggest that it is also not certain about the outcome. This party is also eying an alliance with Congress, no matter pre poll or post poll. The most important factor which is not visible as yet is the likely role of some moderate Hurriyat leaders in the elections. If they also decide to field proxies that will add to confusion in the electoral battle and this all will make both NC and PDP more dependent on alliances.

It is for sure that 2014 elections will change political equations, alliances will realign and strange people will share the political bed in Jammu and Kashmir. A new breed of retired bureaucrats and self-interested trade-union leaders have joined the political bandwagon over the years in Kashmir and this time many of these will jump into the forthcoming elections with different political trademarks. The unpredictable political situation in the state has made the political outfits of all shades and allegiance unaccountable and arrogant. This overconfidence on the part of politicians has already cast its shadow both on the political scenario and the overall administrative setup of the state.

No political party or dispensation seems ready to effect far-reaching changes to the satisfaction of the aspirations of the people. Hunger for power and craving for political entrenchment has made politicians callous and bereft of values. Politicians in Kashmir are fast losing their credibility and whether a new entrant like Aam Aadmi Party with its new brand of politics will make an entry remains to be seen.

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