If anything, the ongoing efforts at forming a new government should cause a serious introspection among the mainstream political parties in the state. The prospect of a massive defection from their ranks has once again reared its head after a break of almost four decades. Last time, a government was formed by breaking a party was in 1984, when an absolute majority government of Dr. Farooq Abdullahs government fell after a breakaway group within National Conference defected to form a government with Congress support. But this brazen interference in the democratic process of the state undermined the confidence of the people in the elections and became one of the factors in the resort to armed struggle for Azadi in 1989. By then the rigging of 1987 polls had only further dented the public faith in the operation of the democracy. But while the centre is definitely responsible for messing up the democracy in the state, mainstream leaders themselves are no less. The politics for them is little more than a vehicle to achieve power with the blessing of New Delhi.
And if this underlines anything, it is that there is something seriously amiss in the democracy as it is practiced in Kashmir. And this results often in its weird operation in the state. People not in good standing of a majority of people go on to perpetually rule the state, prospering and staying tiresomely on the scene even when the people are desperate for change.
In opposition, the leaders might swear by Kashmiri sub-nationalism and their own formulae for the resolution of Kashmir but in power, they invariably forget about it and are ever more willing to make the worst compromises to perpetuate it. Autonomy or self-rule end up becoming little more than slogans, resurrected in times of urgent political or electoral necessity only.
But the cardinal sin of the mainstream parties is that they look at the politics in the state more with reference to New Delhi than to the people of the state. Keeping the centre in good humour is seen as the stronger guarantee of prolonging their rule rather than being responsive to the people. There are certainly reasons for this evidently perverted approach: mainstream politics in the state has been at the receiving end of New Delhis eagerness to control and guide the situation in Kashmir.
The result of this is a deeply seated paranoia in the parties about the overarching and invisible role of New Delhi that is seen as pivotal to who governs the state, relegating people to a secondary position. It is this insecurity about the democracy, this realization of its flawed operation in the state that makes mainstream parties perennially uncertain about their political future.
If this history is repeated once more, not only will it further dilute the confidence of people in the democracy but also sow disillusionment among the mainstream politicians themselves. In a sense, these politicians are themselves responsible for their current plight. The only thing that makes them irrelevant is the faith of their people but when in power they are the first to betray it. Hope, Mehbooba’s unceremonious loss of power followed by the threat of breaking up of her party would help reset their politics on a course of a more faithful representation of the sentiment and aspirations of their people.
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