As Kashmir witnesses a predominant boycott of the ongoing civic polls in the state, the major mainstream parties like National Conference and the PDP have expressed a sense of vindication at the turn of events. They can smugly say that their boycott of the exercise if not the voting has been a factor in the abysmal participation. Going ahead, there is little hope for the public participation in the Panchayat elections. And again the NC, PDP boycott will be a factor – albeit, fundamentally the boycott in Kashmir is the direct function of the festering political conflict in the state. But while the widespread boycott may have helped NC and PDP prove a political point, the establishment parties have been completely sidelined by the centre in its handling of the state a turn of events for which there is hardly any precedent from the past. Centres relationship with Kashmir in the past has always been mediated through the two parties. But the Modi-led government has completely changed the game. During its tenure so far, it has sought to directly and invasively handle Kashmir, with just cosmetic nods to the local players and that too only if they are ready to play a second fiddle as the PDP grudgingly did during its three-year alliance with the party.
For the large part, the BJP has shown singular contempt for the democratic opinion in the state. Let alone taking steps to engage with it, the party doesn’t take it on board in its policies on the state. For example, it didn’t give a damn about the boycott of the civic elections by the PDP and NC, nor did it pay heed to their demand for assurance about the fate of the Article 35A currently facing legal challenge in Supreme Court. Similarly, the people apprehend it might show little concern for the opinion of the people of the state about Article 35A and might work to ensure it is revoked by the Supreme Court and flaunt it as its achievement in the run up to the next year’s general election.
But it is the marginalization of the NC and PDP in the political scheme of things in the state that is completely new in the centres handling of Kashmir so far. This has not only created a deeply embarrassing situation for the two parties but has also bared New Delhis deep-seated paranoia about the functioning of the state. In its four and half years, Modi government hasnt trusted any entity except itself on Kashmir. And Kashmiri political players have been the least trusted of all. No wonder then that the Valley is in a situation it is now.
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