Don’t revive the ghosts of 1987 in Kashmir

Don’t revive the ghosts of 1987 in Kashmir

By M.D. Nalapat | 27 December, 2014
PDP president Mehbooba Mufti
‘Going soft’ on AFSPA and omitting mention of Article 370 alienated the core support base of the BJP.

The hollowing out of the middle class in the US and the fell impact on growth and macroeconomic stability of predatory speculation are consequences of a propensity to look at the future as merely a succession of short terms. Seeking to maximise returns in each short term period leads to strategies which forfeit the future, at least for those affected by such decisions. Statespersons often sidestep short term advantages and implement plans that make sense in the longer term, even if they seem sub-optimal in the present. This columnist has, for a decade, regarded Narendra Modi as a marathon runner, refusing the short bursts of speed that lead to future exhaustion, instead conserving his energy so as to finish the long race first. This is what he did while engaged in the steps which led to his becoming the BJP's declared Prime Ministerial candidate, and subsequently to fulfilling the forecast first made in The Sunday Guardian special supplement on Gujarat, that while his first job was that of a tea boy and the second, the Chief Ministership of Gujarat, the third would be the Prime Ministership of India. Now that he has become the lawful occupant of 7 Race Course Road, the sprawl of buildings which serves as the official residence of the PM, it is precisely such a longer-term view that Modi needs to insist on, even while his associates press for the adoption of strategies that may secure immediate benefits, but which could have toxic effects in the course of time.

This columnist was, from the start of the campaign, sceptical of the view of some in the BJP that the party could — this time around — crack the code in the Kashmir Valley, thereby enabling it to cobble together the 44 seats needed to form the elected government in Srinagar. Instead, the compromise made by the party of "going soft" on AFSPA and omitting mention of Article 370 in its poll manifesto for the state would, this columnist warned, alienate the core support base of the BJP, without any countervailing benefits in the Valley. And so it has proved, with the BJP getting at least five less seats in the Jammu and Ladakh regions than it would have, had the May 2014 message been reiterated rather than muffled.

Having lost its deposit in every seat in the Kashmir Valley, bar a single constituency, the BJP was able to attract a bare 1% of the vote there. This is the context in which the party needs to work out its post-poll strategy, given a context in which extremists are gaining ground in nearby Pakistan. Had the Valley given the BJP 15% or more votes, there would have been a stronger case for joining in a coalition which could govern J&K for the coming term.

Given its poor showing in the valley, it would be more prudent for the BJP to step aside and allow the NC and the PDP to cobble together an opportunistic alliance to run the state. Given the obvious disaffection in both Jammu and Ladakh with Srinagar and its Kashmir-centric policies, the BJP could emerge in Opposition as a force for justice to these neglected regions of the state, and as a check on the misgovernance which is endemic in Kashmir.

Conversely, should it insert itself into an alliance with either the PDP or the NC, the BJP would thereby present the ISI and its allies at GHQ in Rawalpindi with a window of opportunity too tempting to pass up. The BJP will get the blame for each terror attack, every civilian death in what will certainly be a storm of stone-pelting and agitation in the Valley, following the installation of a BJP-inclusive government at Srinagar.

The ghosts of 1987 and the forced cohabitation of the Congress party and the NC are not yet stilled, and could revive.

By seeking to control too many states in the very first year of its term, rather than working out and implementing a (much more feasible) plan of action, which would make the BJP the natural party of governance in India by 2019, the BJP is in danger of giving primacy to politics over economics, whereas the USP of Narendra Modi is economics. Ultimately, it is the functioning of the government rather than the party organisation which will decide the electoral future of the BJP.

Thus far, despite the fact that prices have abated both as a result of Modi's policies and international factors, voters at large are yet to see the Naya Soch and the Acchhe Din that has been promised to them. Getting rid of the obstacles to growth needs to be the priority, for only jobs, jobs and more jobs will give the BJP the 350 Lok Sabha seats in 2019 that would establish the party as the natural party of governance at the Centre. As for the states, a rainbow mix is part of the fabric of federalism, and for the BJP, watching an NC-PDP (and perhaps Congress as well) from its vantage perch in Delhi and in the Opposition benches in the Kashmir Assembly would be an option preferable to forming an alliance certain to re-ignite passions in the Valley. The time for a BJP government in Srinagar is the next time around, not this time, and the aim should be a majority on its own, exactly as was the case during the 2014 Lok Sabha campaign.


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