In almost three weeks since the BJP withdrew from its atypical alliance with the People’s Democratic Party in Jammu and Kashmir leading to the imposition of Governor’s Rule in the state, the only political initiative so far to end the vacuum created in the absence of an elected government is enormously ominous. Reports suggest that the party leadership has given the go-ahead for installing the first Hindu chief minister in the state by engineering splits within the PDP, National Conference and even the Congress with People’s Conference leader Sajjad Lone acting as a pivot, and is merely waiting for the right moment before beginning another sinister operation on lines of several that the BJP has successfully executed in the past in other states. The plan to install a BJP chief minister will accomplish the party’s Mission 44-Plus but through the backdoor. It would however, erase any remaining faith of Kashmiris in the fairness of national parties when dealing with political aspirations in the troubled Valley.
The BJP’s success in accomplishing this diabolical plan would suck Kashmir further into the vortex of lawlessness and away from the national political mainstream. What began in early 2015 as a bold and seemingly genuine experiment by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to move beyond his party’s previous position on Kashmir to a more pragmatic stance moulded by contemporary reality and nationalistic necessity has ended as sham. Recent developments make it evident that from its boisterous campaign in the Jammu region during the Lok Sabha elections in 2014, the BJP’s sole objective was to pander to Hindu sentiments elsewhere in the country. The contention of its leaders that nothing prevents a Hindu from being chief minister of the state is aimed at maximising its electoral prospects in other states by cementing its core constituency.
Kashmir has been a victim of the political adventurism of national leaders previously too — most ruinously during 1983 when then PM Indira Gandhi “split” the state into a Hindu Jammu region and a Muslim Valley. Often compared with her, the BJP’s decision to virtually retrace her steps, so soon after the 43rd anniversary of the Emergency when the dark days were recounted by all including Prime Minister Modi, shows that he and his coterie have learnt nothing either from history or from the blunders of previous leaders. With every decision in Kashmir being taken with eyes solely focused on 2019, Mr Modi has callously undone Atal Behari Vajpayee’s bold initiative of 2002 when he held elections against all expectations and ensured that the Valley witnessed its first fair election in decades. Hereafter, especially if the BJP succeeds in its current plan, it would require a PM with an infinite capacity for boldness and political selflessness to douse passions in the Valley.
The BJP’s plan is despicable because Kashmir is not a state like Maharashtra, Haryana or Jharkhand, where the BJP appointed chief ministers from a non-dominant community. The troubled past of Jammu and Kashmir makes it imperative for the Jammu and Ladakh regions to sit on the back rows of the treasury benches for the sake of national unity and stability. For decades, national political parties successfully impressed upon the people that peace could not be attained in Kashmir if the aspirations of the people of the Valley was not given precedence. This should have been backed by adequate development and creation of opportunities, especially in the two regions, but every Union government has faltered here. After 1983, the Congress and the BJP have alternately heightened the anxiety of people in Jammu and Ladakh with an eye on electoral dividends.
Although both are guilty on this count, the BJP’s two-fold motive now makes its tactic more perilous than any previous effort. First, the immediate goal is to consolidate its slipping support in the Jammu region where people’s sentiment was mounting against it due to the poor legislative record of the BJP’s legislators and the offhand approach of its ministers in the government. Second, the BJP’s Jammu-centric stance, and the Centre’s no-dialogue policy while stepping up security operations and giving scant respect to concerns over human rights violations, are pursued with the objective that this belligerent tone will be music to the BJP’s core constituency in other states. Since the early 1990s, events in Kashmir are not seen solely from a Valley-centric prism but has got increasingly intertwined with rising instance of reactive home-grown terror and the deteriorating communal situation. However disconcerting that this appears, there is no denying that the index of majoritarian prejudice against religious minorities, Muslims in particular, has risen appreciably after the emergence of the Ayodhya agitation. The BJP has strategically blurred the lines between Kashmir and Pakistan, and those critical of the BJP’s stance are labelled anti-nationals. The BJP is seeking to harness this latent sentiment by depicting Kashmir as the proverbial last frontier and thereby the attempt to install a Hindu chief minister.
Early on, the BJP undermined the PDP’s political trustworthiness among people without being considerate about the grave risk it took by aligning with Mr Modi. There was little doubt that this partnership was in absolute contrast to the one between the National Conference and the BJP in the Vajpayee era. Living up to his image of being the right man in the wrong party, Mr Vajpayee often displayed statesmanship and looked beyond personal and party interests. His first step after Pokhran-II turned counter-productive was reviving the peace process with Pakistan, first by heading to Lahore on the bus service he launched and again by inviting President Pervez Musharraf for the Agra summit after Kargil. The impartial conduct of the 2002 Assembly polls immensely politically damaged its ally, the NC. Even the number of BJP legislators dropped from eight to a lone one. Mr Vajpayee undermined his party’s immediate interests because he felt it was a national necessity. For Mr Modi, however, his 2014 slogan of “main desh naheen mitne doonga” (I will not allow the nation to be obliterated) got the emphasis correct, except that desh was a metaphor for himself and his party.