CM’s petty job offers make for a poor political pitch

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“Give me peace, I will give you jobs”, this was the theme of the Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti’s speech at her party’s youth convention here. The exhortation has a troubling ring to it, as it immediately brings to mind the context of the prevailing Kashmir situation, especially the six months of the unrest last year which led to the killings of nearly a hundred people, blindings of several hundred and injuries to thousands of others. And that unrest and what has been happening ever since wasn’t about fourth class jobs in tourism, PHE, Traffic and the other departments.

The exhortation has also gained resonance, albeit of a very ironic sort,  because it brings to mind the celebrated words of one of India’s prominent nationalists Subhash Chandra  Bose. Addressing the members of Indian National Army during India’s freedom struggle against British,, Bose told them, if they were ready to give him their blood, he will give them Azadi.

Mehbooba may not want the context to determine the meaning of her words but in this case the context has cottoned on to her words in spite of her understood wish that they be understood literally. But even if they were taken literally, the Chief Minister’s words hardly stand out for what they mean. She has little to offer to youth other than jobs – most likely those of a daily rated kind – in government departments. She speaks proudly of the recent recruitments in security agencies, including those in police.   

But these jobs, the CM asked the youth, were conditional on their help to restore peace to Valley. And if the youth did so, Mehbooba promised she will bring Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Valley to announce more jobs for the youth. She also asked them to make the upcoming panchayat elections a success.  The rest of the CM’s speech was the regurgitation of her oft-repeated justification of the coalition with BJP, the praise for the PM’s attempted outreach to Pakistan, aborted by the terror attacks and her hope that the dialogue between India and Pakistan will be resumed soon.  

However, the video of her address didn’t show that her words carried conviction. It was a small and a muted gathering of youth, comprised also of a significant section of the girls. Many among the youth were desperate to cover their faces as the camera panned across. If anything, it shows that around nine months after the popular militant commander Burhan Wani’s killing, the government is still struggling to connect with people, particularly with the youth. A part of the reason for this is the low credibility that the mainstream leaders now carry in the Valley. Adding to this  sense of public disillusionment with them is the powerlessness that they display when it comes to assert the aspirations and grievances of the people, even those of apolitical nature. . Except for fewer fleeting interludes, the mainstream politics in the state has been predictable, banal, feudalistic and morally compromised, confined to dynasties and the elite sections of the society. Once, Mehbooba had appeared different. But as the killings and blindings last year have made clear, she has turned out to be no different.

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