Four days after the BJP’s incredible triumph in Uttar Pradesh, the political commentators across India are yet to come to grips with the development. The magnitude of the development is yet to sink in. All the analysis, predictions and exit polls have come to nought. Despite their announcement of the demise of Modi’s vaunted electoral appeal, Modi brand has returned with a vengeance. This hasn’t, however, stopped the political experts and the journalists to dabble in more analysis and prognostications along the beaten lines. True, there has to be a deeper soul searching among the political scientists, psephologists and the journalists, but for now it is time to pause and try to analyse the fallout of the BJP’s absolute control over the country. India is definitely in for an ideological makeover and Muslims and the other minorities have certainly a reason to be apprehensive and so have the people in Kashmir. Whether it turns into reality or not is another matter.
What is needed is a deep reflection and rethink in the state about our approach to the new state of affairs. Several scenarios are possible. One, of course, is the worst and at the other end of the spectrum there is a possibility of some positive development. The worst case scenario could involve tinkering with the Article 370, the apprehended attempts at demographic change, consolidation of more power in the hands of BJP in the state, further deterioration of ties with Pakistan and intensification of cross-border shelling. A major terror attack in India or on the border resulting in considerable loss of lives could even push the things over the cliff. It could force India to launch another surgical strike in Pakistan which could dangerously escalate the situation should Pakistan chose to respond. The fears this time are greater as we have already travelled a part of this path.
On the other hand, the situation can take a positive turn. The PM can chose to engage Kashmir politically. There can be an outreach to Hurriyat and the restoration of the broken dialogue to try and a response to the long festering grievances in the state. Modi can reassure the state that the centre will not make any move to undo the state’s constitutional safeguards. This will go a long way to address the deepening identity anxiety in the state.
Freed of the near-term electoral compulsions by the UP win, New Delhi could reach out to Pakistan and resume the talks. Kashmir process can be segued to the dialogue with Islamabad to get the best possible outcome not only for the two countries but more importantly for Kashmir. But given the situation as it stands now, many people will have serious apprehensions about this turn of events. Considering much of Modi brand is based on a tough stance towards Pakistan and not conceding a bit in Kashmir, it is unlikely that this positive scenario could come to pass. But then who knows. The troubled relations with Pakistan and the lingering turmoil in Kashmir are two of the most formidable challenges that have set India back since 1947. Here is hoping that Modi takes decisive steps to undo this long history of bitterness and bloodshed.