Undoubtedly, only a fresh election can resolve the political imbroglio in Jammu & Kashmir. Most mainstream political parties in the state had been demanding dissolution of the Assembly ever since the PDP-BJP coalition government collapsed in June. The governor’s decision to keep the Assembly in suspended animation was much to their dismay, and their fears grew at attempts by the BJP to form a government apparently with the help of the J&K People’s Conference and willing rebel legislators from the PDP and NC.
It was the gathering pace of these efforts earlier this week, and the urge to keep their own parties intact, that saw the unlikely coming together of the National Conference, PDP and Congress with enough numbers to stake claim to forming the government. Altaf Bukhari, the putative chief minister, said the three parties had joined hands to protect the special status of the state. But that these parties are sworn rivals was not lost on anyone.
They fought the 2014 Assembly election against each other and it is anyone’s guess how long a coalition between them would have lasted. Moreover, at this time, a PDP-NC-Congress alliance, solely to keep the BJP out, may have played into the hands of forces that wish to deepen the regional-communal polarisation that was the unfortunate outcome of the PDP-BJP coalition.
However, the manner in which J&K Governor Satya Pal Malik arrived at his decision to dissolve the assembly smacked of a slyness so last century. The mysterious malfunctioning of the fax machine at the Governor’s House in Jammu such that Governor Malik claimed he did not receive PDP leader Mehbooba Mufti’s letter staking claim to form the government with 55 legislators — 11 more than required — from her party, the NC and Congress, will go down as the millennial version of the Centre’s brinkmanship in the state, another tale of betrayal that will be told to new generations of Kashmiris.
But even more malodorous, and downright irresponsible, were statements by the BJP’s Kashmir pointman, Ram Madhav, describing the three-party alliance as something created on the instructions of Pakistan, and state-level leaders describing it as a “terror friendly” coalition. Though Ram Madhav later attempted a retraction of sorts, it begs the question: Does he even understand what the stakes are in Kashmir? Comments like his and his party’s are akin to setting fire to one’s own house. They undermine the gains made in the Valley, including as a result of the BJP’s coming together with the PDP, and play into the hands of the hardline elements. The BJP must officially disown the remarks.