The generalized statements aside, detail speaks differently
Have people voted for change in the recently held assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir? This is a debatable issue. Is National Conference (NC) an untouchable now? These flimsy observations are nullified by empirical data.
In these elections the vote share of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is 23.0 per cent, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) 22.7 per cent and NC 20.8 percent. The total votes bagged by BJP, PDP & NC were 1107194, 1092203 and 1000693 respectively. Does this difference of 1.9 per cent vote share between PDP and NC make one party ‘pious’ and the other as ‘untouchable? In nine assembly constituencies, NC lost by a margin of 1000-3000 votes including in Mufti’s home constituency of Bijbehara. Here, out of 112 total Polling Stations in the constituency, NC managed an overall lead at 104. What contributed to our loss was sheer muscle and money power at eight polling stations under Mufi’s neighbourhood in Bijbehara. Out of 3800 total votes cast at these polling stations, PDP grabbed 3200 and the margin of loss for NC was 2800. The overall scenario in the constituency was that the PDP got 23581 votes and NC tally was 20713.
Now let us discuss some important developments responsible for unsatisfactory performance by our party in the 2014 assembly elections.
Obstructive coalition partner
The coalition with Congress party proved unproductive in the long run. The party behaved less like a partner and more like an annoying opposition. I speak with full confidence that the party’s state president Mr. Saifuddin Soz was more inclined towards PDP than its coalition partner. Whether it was the issue of transfer of hydro-power projects, working of Panchayats or Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), our coalition partner created unnecessary obstructions. Even Soz publicly admitted that he played spoiler and stalled the revocation of AFSPA from Jammu and Kashmir. He exclaimed, “I have won on this front at the national level because it was my stand that any decision on AFSPA revocation should not be taken in a hurry and the issue should be discussed threadbare at various levels” (Greater Kashmir, 10 August 2012). He also opposed Justice Sagheer Committee recommendations for greater autonomy to the state when his own party colleagues have supported the move. It is important to remind our people that the AFSPA was imposed in Kashmir in 1990 during the tenure of Mufti Mohammed Sayeed as Home Minister of India. The subsequent efforts by NC leaders since 1996 to revoke it miserably failed for the fear of being branded “anti-national and militant supporter”.
Shopian Incident 2009
The Shopian incident of double rape and murder case busted all goodwill towards the Omar led coalition government and set free forces of unrest and intimidation. Although, the CM deeply regretted the incident and apologized people for this unfortunate event, damage was all done when he was wrongly counseled to declare it a case of ‘death by drowning’. The opposition PDP fully exploited the issue to its advantage. Hardly did people remember that Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, as Home Minister of India, imposed Jagmohan as Governor of Jammu and Kashmir in 1990 against wishes of the then President, R Venkataraman and the then Chief Minister, Dr. Farooq Abdullah which prompted latter’s resignation.
Afzal Guru Hanging
Afzal Guru’s hanging was the unilateral decision taken by Congress high command without the consent and cognizance of NC leadership. Afzal’s hanging was a pure case of electoral politics pursued by Congress for “satisfying the collective conscience of India” just before the 2014 General Elections. I have vivid memories of my friend and classmate Afzal as an easy-going guy hanging out with friends. I personally believe that Afzal was denied fair trial. He was too poor to pay for a lawyer and there was none to plead his case. Unlike Afzal, S A R Geelani, another Kashmiri was acquitted in the Parliament attack case only when he could manage a veteran lawyer like Ram Jethmalani. On Afzal’s hanging, Mr. Omar Abdullah pertinently asked the Central Government as to why Guru was hanged when other prisoners on death row, like the assassins of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and Punjab Chief Minister Beant Singh, are still alive. A pertinent question is why one of our reputed lawyers Muzaffar Hussain Baig didn’t plead Afzal’s case in the Supreme Court. The truth is that PDP top leadership preferred a meaningful silence on the issue. The execution has reinforced the point that there is no justice.
In 2005 under PDP-Congress regime, a study by Transparency International declared J&K as the second most corrupt state after Bihar. Corruption can’t be eradicated unless the societies at large make concerted efforts to overcome this menace. Hundreds of corruption cases against public officials are pending before the State Vigilance Organisation (SVO). I the honour to affirm that none of our legislators were implicated in charges of corruption. But few ministers of our coalition partner were found guilty in serious corruption cases. As few credible surveys have shown that the majority of people in our state believe corruption has increased in the last few years. It became a debilitating factor for NC in the recently held assembly elections.
The final nail in the coffin was the September 2014 floods in our state. These floods caused severe death and destruction. The initial estimates by Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry in India (Assocham) puts the loss of Rs. 5,400-5,700 crore to the state’s economy, with heavy damages to trade, hotels, restaurants, horticulture and handicraft. In the immediate aftermath of floods the state government distributed free ration and affordable cash to flood victims. It also sought relief compensation of the order of Rs 44,000 crore from the Central Government. The ‘politics of aid’ resulted in delaying tactics, further complicated by the Model Code of Conduct.
Against all the odds, NC managed to retain its committed cadre base. Now, let us wait and watch the drama unfolding between the creator and the created (BJP-PDP). God save our oppressed nation.