The political impasse that has come to dog Jammu and Kashmir with the dissolution of the State Assembly on Wednesday, or November 21, evening has mainly been due to the BJP-ruled Centre’s inability to find a suitable candidate for the post of Chief Minister of the crucial border State.
Through past five months, or after pulling out its support to Mehbooba Mufti-led State Government the BJP did try to find an alternative to Mehbooba.
But wittingly or wittingly the BJP placed its bet on 51-year-old J&K People’s Conference leader Sajjad Lone though he had only two MLAs in the now dissolved 87-strong House. Lone tried his best to woo Mehbooba’s PDP, or Peoples Democratic Party, MLAs and also from other parties but could hardly inspire them to switch sides.
The main reasons behind this are his relatively young age and his shunning of mainstream politics through his initial years before joining public life years after his father Abdul Ghani Lone’s assassination. The senior Lone was at one stage with the separatists. Obviously, Sajjad Lone could not inspire MLAs in PDP or those from other parties’ stables though he had the backing of the Centre. The BJP on its part had pinned up its hopes with Lone since the time he met Prime Minister soon after Narendra Modi became Prime Minister and the two got along rather well.
Of late Minister of State in PMO, or Prime Minister’s Office, Dr Jitendra Singh Rana alongside other BJP higher ups has been toying with the idea to hoist Lone as the leader of a BJP supported coalition in Jammu and Kashmir. Their efforts, however, could not succeed since most PDP MLAs were apprehensive of losing support in their constituencies by being seen in the company of the BJP supported Lone.
Though quite a few PDP MLAs were not well disposed towards Mehbooba after she lost power and blamed her for promoting her brother and uncle in the party the disgruntled group of PDP MLAs could not gather courage to break away from the party and back Sajjad Lone. This has been so with the exception of PDP Lok Sabha member Muzaffar Hussain Baig who came out openly in support of Lone though belatedly, or on the eve of Lone making a claim for the post of Chief Minister.
Those who have been watching J&K related developments closely point out that Baig could have mustered far more potential both to split the PDP and lead the splinter group to power as Chief Minister of J&K had the BJP supported him instead of Lone. This the Centre’s ruling party obviously could not do because Baig is an astute lawyer by his very training and thus the ruling party of the Centre was not ready to trust him as much as it could do in case of Lone becoming the leader of a possible coalition with its support.
Anyway, the net result of this is dissolution of Legislative Assembly of a State that has already been under Governor’s rule for past five months and is thus headed to another round of Vidhan Sabha polls. At the moment these are likely to be held alongside the next Lok Sabha elctions billed for mid-2019. Yet, it is a fact that the politics in past few months vis-à-vis the ticklish State of Jammu and Kashmir has brought the BJP’s rivals in the province together like never before and this can well cast a shadow on BJP’s fortunes in both Assembly and Lok Sabha polls. This is more so since the BJP had handsomely won the last Assembly polls in Jammu region.
Perhaps Governor Satya Pal Mallick had little option other than to dissolve the Assembly. But while doing so in a matter of just few hours or at the spur of moment amid claims and counter claims of forming Government the Governor also gave credence to the PDP’s long standing charge that the BJP has been trying to buy its MLAs.
Now the claims made by the PDP and its leader Mehbooba Mufti, including those related to horse trading, are supported by her once bitter rival Omar Abdullah. And as for the Congress the party can well smart over the idea that with the latest developments it has attained an ideal position in J&K politics where both PDP and National Conference are there to serve as its flanks despite its marginal or lesser position of the Congress in the State politics when compared to the two regional outfits.
So the question that arises from the BJP or the Centre’s point of view is about as to who is responsible about the unseemly turn of events taken by a troubled State like J&K?
The answer to this lies in the fact that Delhi’s J&K policy has been marked with inconsistencies. It tried to mend things in the border State by forming a coalition Government with Mebooba’s father which she continued after Mufti Mohammed Sayeed’s death. Soon Mehbooba could not get along with the BJP or vice versa and the State came under Governor’s rule. The Raj Bhavan in Srinagar also saw a change with Satya Pal Malik taking over from NN Vohra. And now the Assembly has been dissolved.
The Governor is relatively new to Jammu and Kashmir. So the blame for the sorry state of affairs in Kashmir mainly lies on the part of the Centre. And Delhi is said to lack clarity vis-à-vis Jammu and Kashmir. So much so that the Centre is often said to have no Kashmir policy unlike in the past that saw decline in militancy among other things. Perhaps what Delhi does today with regard to as sensitive a State as Kashmir is to improvise or look for Jugaad instead of a coming up with a consistent Kashmir policy.
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