2019 outcome unrelated to events in valley, though Pak can ratchet up trouble.

 

So we are back to square one in Kashmir. The three-and-a-half-year old experiment of marrying extremes has ended in an abrupt divorce, with the junior partner pulling the plug on the Mehbooba Mufti government. No tears were shed at the fall of a government which had little to its credit bar more mayhem and bloodshed in the idyllic valley. Now we seem to be in for a long haul, with even the thin buffer between the armed forces and the Kashmiri people gone. Both sides to the violent divide in the state will enjoy a relatively free hand to do their own separate thing. And do it more violently. More trouble is on the cards before anyone can visualise a return to normalcy.

In any case, normalcy in the case of Kashmir has widely come to mean a violence-free day or two. With Pakistan in the throes of a national election, which is set to throw up an uncertain verdict, to the immense joy of the Rawalpindi GHQ, the Army in Kashmir ought to be prepared for stepped-up jihadi violence. The Mufti government failed in the uppermost task of weaning Kashmiris away from the cult of the gun, with the Srinagar-centric PDP and the Jammu-centric BJP pulling in opposite directions. The forced meeting of the unnaturals failed to produce a cohesive middle-ground. Let us see how much cohesiveness Governor N.N. Vohra can produce.

Vohra at least needs to be given a waiver under Article 35 A, which prevents “outsiders” to own land in Kashmir, given that he has tenanted the Srinagar Raj Bhavan for so long that he might as well retire there as and when his clueless bosses are able to locate a replacement. Apparently, this 16 June he was supposed to have finally bid goodbye to J&K, and return to his home in Chandigarh, when New Delhi yet again prevailed on him to continue, this time with full-fledged powers as the state’s administrator without the inconvenience of an elected government holding him back in the pursuit of the jihadis and other anti-nationals.

Yet, after seeing the so-called Doval line of no-quarter-to-the-jihadis failing to make an impact, all this talk of further toughness under the Governor’s Rule does not inspire confidence. Pundits churning out reams about Kashmir becoming the leitmotif of a super-duper nationalist campaign by the BJP in 2019 do not seem to know what they are talking about. RSS-BJP do not need Kashmir to beat the nationalist, majoritarian drum; they have sole ownership of it with or without Kashmir, anyway.

Unless the suggestion is that a Kashmir unencumbered by the nuisance of an elected government, a part of which tended to be soft on separatists, might likely unleash a frontal confrontation with our hostile western neighbour on the eve of a crucial general election, thus whipping up a high national fervour in time for the voters to trek to the polling booths. Such cynicism reflects a dim view of the rulers while it decidedly ascribes to the voters poor collective wisdom.

For as long as we have lived with the Kashmir problem, thanks, of course, to the woolly-headedness of Nehru, we have oscillated between talks and no-talks. It is true of the UPA government as well. We think the Narendra Modi government, for over four years having pursued no-talks-till-ISI-switches-off-the-terror-tap to no avail might find percentage in actively engaging Pakistan, first through the Track-II mechanism, and, later, through open political-level talks to try and lower the temperature in the valley. The unending cycle of violence has no other solution between two nuclear-powered claimants over that idyllic piece of real estate whose inhabitants, sorry to say, have become irrelevant to both the Rawalpindi-Islamabad twosome and New Delhi, despite the latter boasting an ingrained democratic system. 

Curiously, by approvingly quoting the disgraced Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf that Kashmiris will “prefer to be independent” if given a chance, the Congress veteran from the valley, Saifuddin Soz, might have set the cat among the pigeons as far as his own present political home is concerned. (At the very least, he might have impeded son Salman’s career as the newest courtier in the Rahul Gandhi durbar.) Or he might have presented Rahul Gandhi a grand opportunity to prove his mettle and become a leader in his own right. By embracing courage and boldness and gambling on an open endorsement of Soz’s proposal, Rahul can face a barrage of abuse, but this will test his character and firmness and arouse a grudging admiration that the great grandson of Nehru is ready to atone for his blunder. Above all, at one stroke it will help him shed his namby-pamby image.

To return to the talk about Kashmir being used as a prop to bolster the BJP electoral prospects, we believe there is no credible threat to Modi winning a second five-year term. The proposed all-against-Modi omnibus under preparation by expert automotive engineers Rahul Gandhi and Mamata Banerjee, people might discover lacks a wheel or two or even an axel and is unable to move. Such negative fronts tend to flounder even before they are born. Also, do not rule out key members of the proposed grand alliance jumping the bandwagon in the nick of time to ally with the BJP for better power-sharing prospects or to avoid loss of the mounds of cash and other assets amassed through corruption and other illicit means.

How can anyone in his right mind reconcile to the current spectacle of Mayawati openly opposing the Modi government? There is something that does not meet the eye in her current boldness against the controllers of the CBI, Enforcement Directorate, and other investigative agencies of the state. There are quite a few other Opposition figures who too are equally vulnerable.

Indeed, what the ruling party going into the elections may have to genuinely fear about is the gang-up of the moneybags, the moneybags who are on the run, or are obliged to sell their companies at bargain- basement prices or are facing attachment proceedings for loans gone sour. Modi in the last four- and-a half years has done precious little to appease the corporates while he has assiduously sought to fix the plumbing of a broken system in order to stop leakages of welfare funds, to weed out fakes from the recipients of cheap fertiliser, food and fuels and generally tone up the sinews of an eroded and stuck-up governmental machinery.

Ordinary people appreciate this effort, while the moneybags are sulking into their expensive single-malts between bouts of unprintable verbal abuse at the man they in 2014 had thought was business-friendly. This Prime Minister is people-friendly. Most of his predecessors were self-avowed socialists and, precisely for that reason, were corporate-friendly.

NOT TRUE, THIS ONE

According to speculation in Congress circles, Pepsi Co has lodged a strong protest with the party president Rahul Gandhi for his marked bias in favour of their bitter rival, Coca Cola. The protest note claims that Pepsi too had equally humble beginnings, its founder starting with the “bante wala soda” in a small village.

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