Ongoing campaign for the Lok Sabha polls is increasingly turning into a debate about J&K’s place within India. In response to the BJP making revocation of the Article 370 and 35A one of its staple election issues, Kashmiri leaders have vowed to defend the special constitutional status of the state. The National Conference has once again dusted off its autonomy agenda and promised to “bring back” the posts of Prime Minister and the sadr-i-riyasat for the state. The NC president Dr Farooq Abdullah has said that the centre will have to implement the autonomy resolution passed by J&K Assembly “one day”. Similarly, PDP president Mehbooba Mufti has warned of an end to Kashmir’s relation with India should Article 370 and 35A be revoked. This has created a situation where the Lok Sabha election in J&K has become a fight for safeguarding the state’s special status within Indian union. Unlike across India, there has been little focus on the jobs and development. And it is understandable. At a time when the challenges faced by a community are existential in nature, other issues go into background.
But it is also true, that the defense of the J&K’s special status by the mainstream parties in the state often struggles to carry conviction with the people. This is because their stance in opposition and in power has invariably turned out to be mutually contradictory. Ours is a democracy where there are vast swathes of sentiment and the aspirations that are not represented within the ambit of democratic structures. And a democracy where politicians see New Delhi rather than the people of the state as a fountainhead of their power. The parties rise to power by appealing to Kashmiri nationalism. But once in power they let go off their ideological moorings so effortlessly and even cheaply. This shift is borne out of the rank political considerations and has to also do a lot with the advent of either the BJP or Congress as a necessary alliance partner for both the NC and the PDP. None of the two parties can hope to form the government without the Congress support and the BJP wouldnt approve of an overtly separatist stance.
This has confirmed to Kashmiris as an article of faith that all that the mainstream parties wanted was power. They hardly trust these parties but they elect them by default as there is no other option. To develop this trust is a hard work. But one thing that can win it for them more than anything else is to remove the gaping dichotomy in their political stance in power and in opposition.
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