Between Opportunism and Patronage: BJP’s Game Plan for Kashmir

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Mehbooba Mufti scored an emphatic victory in the Anantnag by elections. Her margin of victory, around 12000 votes , has left many surprised.  Even after discounting the fact that she is the sitting Chief Minister , with the state machinery at her command, the margin of victory is convincing. The element of surprise, however, for most people is that if her party allied with the BJP – an indelible part of the Sangh Parivar (RSS and the VHP) who have a clear cut agenda of Hindutvization of India and assimilating Kashmir into the Indian Union – how and why did voters for Mehbooba and PDP? Is the Anantnag by poll portentous of elections whenever these will be held? Have Kashmiri Muslims accepted the BJP-PDP combine? And , last but not the least, has the BJP compromised over its stance and political agenda over Kashmir?

The BJP’s and its allied sister organizations will neither dilute nor dim their agenda on Kashmir. The BJP’s alliance with the PDP is both tactical and strategic. Tactically, the premise is to gain a foot hold in Kashmir and the larger strategic game plan is to incorporate and assimilate Kashmir into the Indian Union. Even if, hypothetically speaking, the BJP would dilute somewhat its stance of Kashmir for pragmatic reasons, it would mean and imply severing its umbilical links with the RSS and the VHP- essentially an impossibility given the nature of the Sangh Parivar. The question then is why is the BJP acting as a kind of a junior partner in the coalition and why is it neither making vigorous public noise over the issues that are its philosophical and political core?

It would appear that BJP is pursuing a quiet game. The party appears to understand that for the PDP, the alliance has been opportunistic in the sense of gaining state and government power. The BJP gave the PDP what it wanted but the party has not given up its agenda over Kashmir. All that the BJP wants in Kashmir is numbers. That is, crystallization of its agenda over Kashmir is a numbers game. It neither needs nor wants the conversion of Kashmiris to its cause- ideologically and ideationally. All is wants is a head count. In lieu of this, the party has inveigled some Kashmiris and made attractive joining the BJP through patronage and other goodies. In other words, the BJP has monetized its politics in Kashmir by giving monetary, financial and other inducements to join it.

Insofar, as the BJP’s Kashmir cadre is concerned, none of these are bright sparks. They are neither an intelligent people nor do ideology or idea(s)  motivate them. They are opportunists, careerists out there in the game for self advancement. This works fine for the BJP; the party would not want intelligent people in their cadre; they would not want those who are committed ideologically and those who would ask and pose awkward questions. All the BJP wants is a head count which would help the party to carry through its agenda in Kashmir. And , to an extent, given the opportunism that defines Kashmir contemporarily , the BJP has succeeded. Yes, this game plan is short termist and , from a long term perspective is rife with negative political consequences but it is the short term horizon that the BJP is interested in. To repeat, all the BJP wants is head count which would allow the party to tinker with Kashmir’s special status to set the ball rolling. Unfortunately, some opportunistic , carpet bagging Kashmiri Muslims are giving them exactly what the BJP wants.

Now, in terms of the by polls in Anantnag, have Kashmiris accepted the PDP’s alliance with the BJP? The answer is a clear no. What explains the margin of Mehbooba’s victory then? The answer lies, among other things, in the politics of patronage- jobs, amenities for far flung areas and other prosaic needs of people. To infer from Mehbooba’s victory acceptance of the alliance is plain wrong. Most of the voters are rustic , rural folk who want both Azadi as well as amenities like roads, hospitals and jobs. Given that Mehbooba is in power and given that Anantnag is the Mufti family’s bastion, Mehbooba’s victory was a foregone conclusion. Moreover, it is Srinagar which sets the tone for Kashmir’s politics; in Srinagar, the defining feature of its denizens and their politics is their total indifference from mainstream politics.  Making inferences of a certain sort over the Anantnag by poll then amounts to making wild generalizations. The by poll then,  in the larger scheme of things ,  means nothing.

But regardless of whether it was the promise of patronage that helped Mehbooba win or indifference to BJP’s method of entry into Kashmir and the means it has chosen to arrive at this end, the conditions that obtain in Kashmir are alarming- at least , from a long term perspective. In a way, Kashmir is being set up for further regression and even violence. And, especially from the mainstream political perspective, it would appear, given the propensity of quislings and BJP collaborators in Kashmir, nothing has been learnt from history. As Santayana, famously said, “ those who forget history are condemned to repeat it”. If Santayana’s dictum or phrase holds true, then all that is in store for Kashmir is gloom and doom. Alas!

 

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