Time for Mehbooba to lead from front

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As the countdown begins to the hearing of the petition against Article 35A by the Supreme Court, the level of uncertainty in Kashmir is increasing. With the BJP Government at the centre refusing to file a counter affidavit in the Supreme Court against the petition challenging the Article 35A, the possibility of an adverse order look real.  It is this apprehension that has forced the PDP and National Conference to close ranks and seek a wider consultation with the opposition leaders. In an extraordinary development, the Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti drove to the residence of the National Conference president Dr Farooq Abdullah to seek his support in pre-empting the possible removal of the Article 35A. The party’s  working president Omar Abdullah was also part of the meeting which lasted for about 30 minutes.

On the other hand,  the PDP’s coalition partner the BJP remains defiant about the need to remove the Article 35A and the Article 370, even though it has reiterated its commitment to the Agenda of Alliance which obliges it to respect the state’s special constitutional position. But the party has made no bones about the fact that it wants both Article 370 and 35A to go.  And this is a very troubling state of affairs. For the BJP it is now or never. The party has an absolute majority in the parliament and it also rules the largest number of the states in the country. Now the president and the vice president of the country are also from the same party.  This gives it the mandate and the authority to make major decisions in line with its longstanding agenda. The party has always sought to do away with the J&K special status and it hasn’t been able to do it because there is little that it can politically do about it. Hence the need to take a judicial route. If the court order strikes down the J&K’s special status, it will be a fulfilment of the BJP’s core agenda. At the same time, the party can claim it had nothing to do with the repeal of the special status.

But in the state such a development will be disastrous. This will completely delegitimize the mainstream politics. As Mehbooba herself said it will become difficult for pro-India politicians “to shoulder  the Indian flag”.  However, for all its detrimental fallout on the establishment politics in the state, it will still remain of peripheral importance considering the sweeping and irrevocable damage, the repeal of the Article 370 would have caused to the state’s special status.  There will be little of any real value left of it, something that Mehbooba too has acknowledged. “If the Article 35A is tampered with, we will cease to exist,” the CM said in an interview.  And which is true. It is time for Mehbooba to resist any such move and lead from the front. Any laxity on her part now will not only make her politically irrelevant but it will also be catastrophic for the state.

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