As the ongoing election campaign in India looks unevenly poised between the BJP and the wider opposition including Congress, Kashmir is waiting with a bated breath. One almost senses a preference for a non-BJP government at the centre, but the reality on the ground is more complex. Truth is that Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan may not be alone in preferring Modi over a Congress government, the reasons for him to think along these lines have a resonance in Valley too. The opinion that the PM Modi is the best hope for an acceptable Kashmir resolution between India and Pakistan has wide currency in J&K.
Ironically both these perceptions conflict with Modi’s personal image and his party’s political agenda on Pakistan and J&K. During his five years in power, the PM has chosen not to engage with Pakistan except on his terms and in regard to Kashmir, his objective has been the state’s complete merger with India rather than an acceptable resolution. As is clear from the current statements in Kashmir from the senior BJP leaders, the saffron party’s ideological position on J&K seeks complete integration of the state into India, something that goes against the political aspirations of the majority of the people of the state. The party seeks revocation of the Article 370 which gives special status to J&K under Indian constitution and Article 35A which bars outsiders from settling in the state. The BJP government also presides over the muscular militaristic policy towards Kashmir which has only worsened the security situation in the state.
But the perception that Modi is the man to resolve Kashmir still lingers. One reason certainly is the popular belief that the charismatic strong leaders can take hard decisions and still carry people along. It is also true about the ideological right represented in India by the BJP. Political right is seen capable of making difficult and contentious decisions and get away with them. For example, Modi carried out the demonitization and despite subjecting people to hardships he was able to convince people about the rationale of the measure. Ditto with the GST
A popular preference for the BJP as the only hope for Kashmir resolution also springs from the credible movement on Kashmir front during the previous BJP government under Atal Bihari Vajpayee. It was Vajpayee who in February 1999 undertook a bus yatra to Pakistan and signed the Lahore declaration with his then counterpart Nawaz Sharif which committed the two countries to “intensify their efforts to resolve all issues, including the issue of Jammu and Kashmir”. And it was Vajpayee who invited the then Pakistan president General Parvez Musharraf to Agra after the Kargil war between the countries.Modi certainly offers some hope but he has also created a deep paranoia among people in the state by his agenda strip J&K of its constitutional safeguards if re-elrcted. Here’s hoping that if at all the BJP returns to power it chooses the saner course of resolving Kashmir issue rather than complicating it further by implementing his party’s ideological agenda on the state.
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