By Simran Khanna,
Edited by Anjini Chandra
In the wake of what seems to be a fractured verdict or a true expression of democratic voting, the assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir have flung a dilemma in the path toward political stability in this volatile region. The People’s Democratic Party has won 25 seats in the Kashmir Valley and 3 in the Jammu region. The Bharatiya Janata Party has closed in at second place with 25 seats from the Jammu region only. The National Conference has secured 15 seats and the Congress has secured 12 seats. 23 per cent of the popular vote in the entire state has fallen in the BJP’s kitty.
The PDP has been left with the option of either merging with the BJP, or creating a coalition with the Congress and other variants. Contrary to their initial tactic, which would require the PDP to approach them, the National Conference, led by Jammu and Kashmir’s former chief minister Omar Abdullah, has pledged their support to the PDP, having ruled out the possibility of an alliance with the BJP. However, senior PDP leaders sway toward the option of forming an alliance with the BJP, and they have conducted informal talks with them regarding the possible alliance. If this possible alliance does materialize, the BJP-PDP coalition will hold a strong majority of 53 seats in the assembly.
However, it is important to note that a series of roadblocks weigh down the possible alliance.
“I cannot see how oil and water can be mixed. They are fundamentally opposed to almost everything.” stated Mr. Aiyar.
‘Everything’ here essentially pertains to the different ideologies held by the two parties with regard to Article 370 of the Indian Constitution and the Armed Force Special Powers Act (AFSPA).
Article 370 confers a special status to Jammu and Kashmir, providing it autonomy. According to Mr. Omar Abdullah, it represents the “only constitutional link that J&K retains with the Republic of India”. The PDP remains adamant that Article 370 would remain a non negotiable hard limit in the upcoming discussions with the BJP, regarding their future core agenda in J&K. They also maintain that they are determined to get the AFSPA repealed.
The AFSPA was put into force by the Indian government in 1958 to curb the rampant militant activities in the region. Many say that it played a hand in reducing the secessionist mind frame prevalent in the troubled areas of North-East India and Jammu and Kashmir. The AFSPA has indeed, like vehemently stated by those against it, militarized the troubled region. There have been several occurrences of human rights violations being committed by these Special Forces, who have been authorized to overstep the right to liberty accorded to the citizens of our country, in the name of countering terrorism. Yet the question that is a thorn in our hides is whether these troubled areas can do without the added security? And if the AFSPA is repealed, how will we overcome the vulnerable void left behind?
What’s stopping the PDP from grabbing the much needed political support of the BJP? The party seems to be divided on the matter of the coalition. While many senior leaders have extended an olive branch to the BJP without delay, others question the fluidity of such a move. It may not only earn a backlash from their voters, but also take away from them influential posts like that of the Chief Minister in order to keep this ‘needed’ ally happy. Although, with the unprecedented damage that was caused by the floods that had recently hit Jammu and Kashmir, and the mounting tension in the area, the inflow of funds from the centre is likely to diffuse the tension and encourage growth in the region after this handicap. The delay can also be seen as strategic on the part of the BJP, who have ridden the ‘Modi wave’ to its zenith and don’t want to lose momentum just before the Delhi elections, especially if this alliance isn’t taken well by the Kashmiri public. While the public waits anxiously to see if their aspirations are to be dashed away, we wait with them to see if Kashmir can be removed from the ‘column’ of India’s conflicts.