Omar Has A Point 

Speaking at a function in Jammu on Monday, National Conference leader Omar Abdullah has urged the people of the state to elect a single party government “keeping in view challenges and problems faced by the people”. A day after he received endorsement of his view from unexpected quarters. Senior PDP leader Altaf Bukhari publicly supported Omar and sought a single party rule as the state had  “suffered immensely due to coalition compulsions”. Bukhari was immediately opposed by his party, which strongly batted for a coalition government. The PDP president Mehbooba Mufti said that the “brute majority”  in the Assembly has had a history of sell-outs in J&K. “With 60 members, NC sold out power houses, brought Ikhwan, task force, POTA,” Mehbooba tweeted.

However, far from the debate about the downsides of the coalition governments in the context of J&K, here it appears to have something to do with the internal rumblings in the PDP and the personal politics of Bukhari. Is he set to join the NC? It could very likely be so. The PDP has already suffered the exit of several of its senior leaders which has raised a question mark over the performance of the party in the upcoming Parliament and possibly Assembly polls. The party is left with fewer leaders of standing with an electoral base of their own. 

The politics of the NC and the PDP aside, in pitching for a  return to a single party government in the state, Omar and Bukhari have inadvertently raised a larger issue of concern in the state: The issue here is beyond the merits and demerits of a coalition or a single party government. It is whether both forms of the government represent the sentiment and aspirations of the majority of the people of the state. And on this measure, both have failed. But despite this fact, a coalition system of governance has been a cause of endemic concern in the state: for more than representing the will of the majority of the people, it has come to represent the progressive fragmentation of the mandate, more so in the Valley. 

Ironically, the Valley’s progressive political fragmentation is traced to the advent of the PDP as a credible Opposition in 2002. The party ended the NC’s vaunted political hold on Kashmir but it also turned the Congress into a king-maker over the following twelve years. With the Valley’s seats split between them, the NC and PDP were hardly in a position to form the government without the Congress support. But now with Congress decimated and BJP stepping into the breach, NC and PDP on a decent showing in polls are obliged to share power with the saffron party, which looks likely to hold on to its gains in Jammu. The real debate in J&K   thus shouldn’t be about the so-called pros and cons of a single party or a coalition government, but about the splintering of the political mandate of the Valley and how to overcome it.




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