National Conference Memorandum: An example of politicking over politics;

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The National Conference- the major opposition party of the state of Jammu and Kashmir-  Monday presented a memorandum to the Governor, N N Vohra. The memorandum highlighted the divisive forces at work in the state and underscored the PDP-BJP coalition government’s performance and governance deficit, among other things. The party sought the Governor’s intervention based on the stature of his office. There is an element of irony in the National Conference’s plea.  The umbrella party which once had total and complete sway over the politics of Jammu and Kashmir has been reduced to a mere 15 seats in the state. While the ups and downs in vote and seat shares are part and parcel of politics and political trajectories of political parties, the National Conference, however, stands out for its plummeting appeal in J& K.  A catch all , umbrella party that changed its initial nomenclature from Muslim Conference to National Conference to reflect and represent its secular and representative character , gradually but inexorably ceded space to other political groupings and formations in the state.

Yes, there was insurgency and militancy to contend with where the National Conference was targeted. However, the decline of the National Conference preceded militancy in the state; the reasons were structural and pertained to its vacillating and waning stance vis a vis a whole host of factors , among other things. Its historical appeal and representative character waxed and waned with the changing and changed circumstances; a disconnect between the party and the people emerged and it was, with the passage of time, viewed as an appendage of the Centre. It adopted a managerialist approach towards politics and gradually morphed into a patronage machine. This , besides other factors, led to the decline from the perch for the party and created space for other parties and groupings which formed and spoke to the ethno religious divides and fault lines of the state.

Ultimately, politics is about power and votes-especially in the subcontinent. In the competition for votes, religion and ethnicity gradually became major factors and people voted along these lines. Hence the polarization of the state. While the National Conference, if the memorandum, is taken at face value, has its heart in the right place, it needs to demonstrate this in deed; not merely in word.

The most intriguing facet or portion of the memorandum pertains to the allegations of governance and performance deficit of the current ruling dispensation in J & K. While, it is indubitably correct that the ruling PDP- BJP combine has been remiss in terms of governance in the state, but it is rich for the NC to accuse the coalition of a governance deficit. The NC’s allegation would have held water and been substantive if its performance in government would have been stellar. But, alas, by any yardstick of government performance measurement, the NC, during its government tenure, could not be held to have been an exemplar. There was-both in retrospect and well as then- a yawning governance gap when the party was in power-albeit in coalition with the Congress. The unwieldy coalition-especially in terms of governance- did not come out smelling of roses during its six years in power. In the final analysis, the NC-Congress combine was booted out of power largely for its abysmal governance performance and record. The NC then in attacking the PDP-BJP coalition government , is opposing for the sake of opposing.

This is a bit of a travesty.  The state of Jammu and Kashmir needs a politico-governance paradigm that redounds to the benefit of the people of the state. This paradigm should be welfare oriented and welfare enhancing rather than merely power political. A power political paradigm can only mean alteration of political parties in office with no real difference in the lives of people. If any political party of the state-be it the NC or the PDP- wants to really usher in paradigmatic change in the politics and governance of the state, then they should stay true to the credo of power to, of and by the people. This would mean a welfare oriented, programmatic politics where ultimately people judge these parties for their policy making, execution and governance they deliver. This is a lesson and theme all political parties of the state should take to heart. The question is : will they? Perhaps. If and when this day comes to pass, the politics of the state will be held to have liberated itself from the bondage of power and power politics. But as things stand now, this day appears to be far off. Till then, all we can expect is politicking over politics. Alas!

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