BY Shafi Ahmad
Jammu and Kashmir, downgraded to UT status a year before, is battling on two fronts; one Corona virus and second restoration of democracy. The virus cases are rising day by day with more and more deaths reported .In this fight warriors are fighting, even some consumed by the death. Restoration of democracy has hit roadblocks at various levels. Kashmir has political leaders on two fronts .One group is known as secessionist and the other mainstream entities. However, a year before almost all were rounded up, possibly to thwart any attempt to raise objections against abrogation of article 370 and 35 A. Although most of the political leaders from mainstream group have been set free but allegedly some still remain behind bars. Most of the big names from secessionist group or having supposed allegiance with them continue to be incarcerated. Few among them released are under restrictions in their homes.
A pertinent question being raised in J&K is as to what has BJP government gained out of August 2019 decision of abrogating special status the erstwhile state enjoyed. And when will the democratic institutions resume functioning? No clear cut answers are coming from any quarter except Prime Minister declaring in his 15th August speech that after delimitation exercise J&K will have its Chief Minister, assembly and other political functionaries.
Major decisions regarding holding of elections and possible inclusion of the secessionist groups in dialogue or some arrangement could be the two formidable steps towards restoration of democracy. A BJP leader recently claimed that after delimitation exercise is over elections can be held .While another claimed that need of the hour first is to undo the wrongs of previous governments. The Chief Secretary of the UT was engaged in a spat with the politicians (particularly National Conference) when he claimed J&K previously was run like a Ponzi state. Will it mean that traditionally mainstream politicians will be relegated to oblivion? If that is any indication what are the processes to tackle that. Politicians from NC, PDP, Congress and some lesser mortals can’t be wished away casually. These groups did up their ante in a recently held meeting under former CM ,Farooq Abdullah, when they again demanded restoration of Article 370 and 35-A
How can BJP win or grab power? The delimitation process is on and analysts believe some of the assembly segments may be increased in Jammu province which BJP expects will go in their favor. But BJP tally of 25 in previous election can be their best performance. Even if 6-7 seats are expected to get increased by the people from West Pakistan migrants and others who became J&K residents through domicile still the party will stick to 25 only because this time NC, Congress and PDP may not allow anti BJP vote to split . The recent joint meeting by these forces could be a step in that direction. In such a scenario BJP will need another 20seats (post delimitation) which have to come from Kashmir valley from where there is hardly any hope for BJP. In a recent chat a BJP functionary claimed to get 13 seats from Gujar belt. Does it then mean delimitation exercise may see some important seats getting reserved for ST category or gerrymandering will be exercised in such a way that Kashmir valley is politically disempowered?
An interest had been created with the formation of Apni Party .This party has some of the faces who were part of influential political parties in the past. In its new avatar they were expected to align with BJP in one or the other form .Even few months back few members of this party were slated to become political advisors to the LG but the project had to be shelved presumably at the behest of Jammu based leaders .Will they still hold the clout remains to be seen?
An important turn took place when former bureaucrat turned politician resigned as president of his a year old party. Dr. Faisal, it’s believed, would not have turned tables in favor or against any political equation but his resignation did create some interest as his entry into political arena did previous year. His jibe ‘why should I sacrifice my future for the people who did not even cry for me ‘brought him lots of ridicule from social media users .
In such a scenario the situation is fluid and no concrete results are coming forth. When will BJP expect to reap the better political benefits remains to be seen as the prospect of restoration of democratic rights hinges on the BJP.
Shafi Ahmad is a Kashmir based columnist, author of novel The Half Widow, and can be mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org