Enter BJP: Mark the Saffron!

Enter BJP: Mark the Saffron!

In the coming six years, no party or coalition in power can ignore the strength of BJP

“No Government which is in a large minority in the country, even though it possesses a working majority in the House of Commons, can have the necessary power to cope with real problems”, Winston Churchill reminded the House of Commons on 2 June 1931.

This fundamental must be borne in mind for all the polls held in Jammu & Kashmir, whether they are fairly held or not, until the future of the State is settled by an accord among India, Pakistan and the people of the State. All the elements in public life must participate and the role of the armed forces and of the Centre’s intelligence agencies must be eliminated.

The results of the elections to the Legislative Assembly of J & K, declared on 23 December 2014, opened for the BJP new vistas for the capture of power in complicity with dubious elements in Kashmir. It does not pursue in Punjab a campaign to saffronise it. That objective is reserved for Kashmir. The BJP’s moves are less disturbing than the intrigues and deception of its Kashmir accomplices. If these two partners succeed, the treachery of 8 August 1953, which led to the ouster from office of Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah, and his imprisonment for 11 years, will  be repeated in 2015 in a form with far graver long term consequences. The 1953 crime paved the way for the destruction of Kashmir’s autonomy. The crime of 2015 will pave the way for the saffronisation of the Kashmir Valley. The BJP as a coalition partner with the PDP will acquire a foothold and a respectability which the Valley’s electorate flatly denied to it by a unanimous verdict of rejection.

Is it a mere coincidence that in the aftermath of the poll results the RSS’ organ, Organiser, reprinted its editorials and writings of 1948? One editorial of 15 January 1948 was entitled “Kashmir The Spiritual Home of Hindus”. It continued, “The Maharaja is more sinned against than sinning. The Hindu kingdom is one of the oldest in world history and is an indissoluble part of the cultural hegemony of the Hindustan”. The reprint’s object is obvious – Hindu Raj should now be revived in Kashmir.

Soon after the polls were over, Organiser of 4 January 2015 wrote: “For Jharkand, it is a verdict to initiate development.” But the verdict for J&K is different – “and for J&K, it is a beginning of real democratic integration”.

The route was clearly outlined. “BJP has now entered into power politics of the State as it is the second largest party with 25 seats. Its mission 44+ failed but the mission to get rid of traditional family based corrupt politics seems to be successful because in coming six years, no Party or Coalition in power can ignore the strength of BJP. However, the Party has missed a good opportunity as it has lost 9% of its support from May 2014, because BJP got more than 32% votes in 2014 Parliamentary elections. It had at least the opportunity to get all 37 seats of Jammu and 4 seats of Ladakh. If it would have happened, the Party without even getting a seat in valley would have come into power on its own, with minor adjustments.” To bring the BJP to power in Srinagar even in a coalition is to help it move towards its  final goal.

All through the election campaign, both the PDP leaders, Mufti Mohammed Sayeed and Mehbooba Mufti, sang in praise of Vajpayee. The BJP was not deceived. Ram Madhav ridiculed them on 1 January 2015. DNA reported the next day that he, “a recent entrant in the party from the RSS”, dubbed the invocation of former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpaye and his dreams about Kashmir by PDP President Mahbooba Mufti on 31 December 2014 after meeting Governor N.N. Vohra in Jammu as “making a case to influence its own electorate” – in plain words, to deceive the people of Kashmir. In an article in Greater Kashmir as far back as on 23 November 2014, entitled BJP Raj in Kashmir? I referred to the Muftis’ alaap “Vajpayee, Vajpayee”, I asked “If the BJP” was already chosen as the PDP’s ally of choice, “Why not prepare the public for that now?”. The hung Assembly provided an excuse and Mufti immediately plumped for the BJP. What followed in public was a deceptive charade; long drawn to dispel doubts in the party.

Let alone the angry election campaign speeches the solemn pledges in the manifestoes recorded an irreconcilable divide. One of the PDP’s “5 Key Agendas” is “Pursue Self-Rule as the Framework of Resolution”, a reminder of its earlier document on Self-Rule. The Manifesto elaborated; “The Self Rule document will be the guiding framework for Resolution. Closer ties across the Line of Control. Make borders irrelevant.” “Complete Connectivity”. This is impossible to achieve except by agreement with Pakistan. The BJP strongly opposed Dr. Manmohan Singh’s steps in that very direction and opposes it even more shrilly now. The PDP pledges to “use Article 370 itself to restore the original special status of the State”. This is perfectly possible, constitutionally. But it would require an Order by the President under Article 370 and he cannot make any Order without the advice of the Government of India. Only a fool would expect a Narendra Modi, pledged to the abrogation of Article 370, to advise the President to strengthen it by restoring it to its “original” strength. There is a pledge to “restore powers of the State Assembly”. This requires amendment of the Constitution of the State and even more so also a Presidential Order under Art. 370 for which also Modi’s “advice” to the President would be required. Whom was the draftsman of the PDP Manifesto, a highly educated man, trying to fool by his famous cleverness? Sample this; “Converting Siachin into a Peace Park;” i.e. an accord with Pakistan on the Siachin issue. But the PDP’s friends in New Delhi reject that completely. 

The BJP’s Vision Document totally lacks vision. Its concerns are blatantly communal: “resettlement” of Kashmir pundits; compensation, with Kashmir’s Citizenship rights, including the vote, to “refugees from West Pakistan”; reservation of 3 seats in the Assembly, out of the Valley’s 46 for “displaced Kashmiris”, and 5 seats “for refugees” from West Kashmir out of the 23 “left vacant for the PoK”; “Dogra Certificates for the people of Jammu if voted to power”. Art. 370 is not mentioned. The BJP’s in-charge for J&K, Avinash Rai Khanna, pointedly said: “We are fighting the election on the issue of development. Rest of the issues we have made our stand clear” – very clear, indeed, except to the consciously blind.

The results revealed a clear mandate by the Valley decisively to reject the BJP and thus exclude it from power. The people voted in strength only to keep it out; hence the 5 seats from Srinagar to the PDP which won a mandate from the Valley. The BJP swept Jammu alone. It drew a blank even in Ladakh. It is sheer treachery to allow it to enter the corridors of power by the back door. 

The results offered the PDP three choices – PDP 28, BJP 26, NC 15 and Congress 12: (a) A Grand Coalition comprising the PDP, NC and the Congress (b) A PDP-NC Coalition and (c) PDP-Congress Coalition. The Jammu factor can be taken care of by appointing distinguished persons from Jammu as Ministers and getting them elected to the Legislative Council within 6 months as S. 37(2) of J&K’s Constitution permits. India has had 3 PMs who belonged to the Rajya Sabha.

Also, it is perfectly legitimate to a coalition partner, especially the senior one, to insist on the right to exclude from the Ministry persons who lack popular favour i.e. Omar Abdullah. This would have confronted NC’s senior and able leaders like Mohammed Shafi, Abdul Rahim Rather and Ali Mohammed Sagar with the reality that there is no future for the NC with this incompetent, insolent Omar as leader, but every future if he is discarded. The party machine is intact. On 30 March 1997 the Congress withheld support to the United Front Ministry headed by Deve Gowda but renewed its support when the ambitious I.K. Gujral became the U.F’s leader. In 2010, the Lib-Dems’ leader Nick Clegg ruled out from the outset any coalition with Labour if Gordon Brown was to remain its leader. For Kashmir’s sake, the political dynasty of Abdullahs must end. So must the depredations of Congressmen; like Ghulam Nabi Azad, particularly.

If, however, the Grand Coalition of three, and a PDP-NC one are ruled out, a PDP-Congress coalition offers a good option. It is sheer ignorance to say that there is “no choice” but to form a coalition with the BJP. The mandate belies that, and so does the clear constitutional position. 28 (PDP) & 12 (Congress) + 3 Independents yield a strength of 43 in a House of 87. The CPI(M)’s M.Y. Tarigami, the PDF’s Hakim Mohammed Yasin and Engineer Sheikh Abdur Rashid have declared their support for a non-BJP secular government.

Only a constitutional illiterate would contend that a block which lacks an absolute majority by a solitary vote is disentitled to form a ministry. No Governor can validly reject its claim on this score if it is backed by written pledges of support; preferably a coalition. Sure Omar might then rush to embrace the BJP. But what kind of majority can he claim – 25 + 15 and 2 of Sajjad Lone and add Pawan Gupta of the Panthers’ make 43. Syed Baqir Rizvi has been close to both the NC and the Congress.

In such a situation the Governor cannot decide who has the majority; that is for the Assembly to decide. But, then, which of the two blocks should he first invite? The Governor must go by the settled rules of the parliamentary system laid down by the authorities and the Supreme Court.

1. Sir Ivor Jennings’ authoritative Cabinet Government says: “It is an accepted rule that when a Government is defeated, either in Parliament or at the polls, the Queen should send for the leader of the opposition” (p.32). He adds also; “Minority governments are more common than is generally supposed” (p. 481). The NC lost heavily at the polls; it cannot return to power by the back door on the coat tails of another party. The Governor’s best course is to send for the PDP’s leader and require him to obtain the customary vote of confidence.

2. In S.R. Bommai vs. Union of India (1994) 3 Supreme Court Cases 1, Justice Jeevan Reddy said explicitly “The Constitution does not create an obligation that the political party forming the ministry should necessarily have a majority in the legislature. Minority governments are not unknown. What is necessary is that the Government should enjoy the confidence of the House” (p. 276; para 391). That is for the Assembly, not the Governor to decide. “The principle of democracy underlying our Constitution necessarily means that any such question should be decided on the floor of the House. The House is the place where democracy is in action. It is not for the Governor to determine the said question on his own, and on his own verification. This is not a matter within his subjective satisfaction. It is an objective fact capable of being established on the floor of the House” (p. 276; para 391).

Minority governments came to power in Britain in 1910, 1923, 1929 and 1974. Indira Gandhi headed a minority government from the time the Congress split in 1979 till the General Election in 1971. P. V. Narsimha Rao’s was a minority government initially in 1991.

There was nothing to prevent the Mufti from asserting a claim to form a Government on the basis of established law. But then even before the polls he had decided to ally himself with Modi under the smokescreen of “Vajpayee”. Otherwise he would have immediately formed a coalition with Congress. The delay is due to the decision to accept the BJP.

It was not Vajpayee but Manmohan Singh who initiated a genuine peace process which culminated in an accord with President Musharraf on the famous 4-Points. It was only a signature away when in March 2007 Musharraf created a crisis by sacking the Chief Justice. Manmohan Singh’s plans to visit Pakistan were wrecked. The Muftis’ Vajpayee was opposed to this process. There a is documentary evidence on this.

It is a letter dated 15 June 2005 to the PM Manmohan Singh, by Vajpayee. Here is its full text: 

“I am writing to draw your attention towards the disturbing turn that the peace process with Pakistan has taken. With great efforts and a sustained strategy, Pakistan was made to commit to a comprehensive process of normalization leading to the joint statement of 6 January 2004. But it seems that the peace process has now become Kashmir centric, an objective cherished by the establishment in Pakistan. This impression is based on the following three developments.

“First of these is the prominence being given to the Hurriyat vis-à-vis the democratically elected government of Jammu and Kashmir. A year ago three was a distinction between the moderates and the hardliners. Today the moderates are totally pro-Pakistan. I would have thought that the Hurriyat leaders would have talks with you or your home minister before going to Pakistan. But no, they go to Pakistan, repeat every statement made by Gen Musharaff, and then condescend to say that they would go to Delhi as well! The growing demand for trilateral talks, “international guarantee” for settlement and including Hurriyat as a representative of the people of Kashmir, seem to be undoing the laboured achievements of the past few years.

The second disturbing element is the way Hurriyat visit to Pakistan was mishandled by our authorities. General Musharraf claims that they were invited to Pakistan with your approval. Initial stand that they would not be allowed to go without passport and visas was reversed. Officials gave the impression that our government is running after them to hand them passports and finally they travelled to Pakistan against the established norms of international travel. Since we did not prevent the Hurriyat leaders from crossing the LoC with the avowed intention of going to Islamabad, Lahore, Karachi, etc. Pakistan and Hurriyat treated our protest about the violation of “some understanding” with scorn. They should have been given Indian passports and asked to enter Pakistan across the international border. All this has held our country up to mockery.

Thirdly, our Government seems to be allowing Pakistan to slip out of the commitments it had made in the January 6, 2004 statement – that terrorism shall be eschewed, that there shall be no third party, and so on. Events of the last fortnight show that once again Pakistan is reviving and keeping open the options of incorporation of Kashmir through violence, through “independence” or through “autonomy/self governance”. The murderous attack in Pulwama, the revelation by JKLF leader Mr. Yasin Malik, the statements of Salahuddin, the head of Hizbul Mujahidden and the Muttahida Jihad Council, all point to this disturbing trend.

All of us want the peace process to succeed. But that success would consist in Pakistan abandoning the violence it has been sponsoring and in creating an atmosphere in which the people of India and Pakistan have enough inter-dependencies to make other things irrelevant. I do hope that you will take steps in the coming days that will allay these apprehensions.”

Manmohan Singh’s reply of 20 June 2005 rebuffed him. But it contained a nugget which Modi has made relevant. “With regard to the visit to the Hurriyat leaders to Pakistan, you are aware of the fact that in the last four or five years, these leaders have regularly met Pakistani dignitaries visiting India, as well as Pakistani diplomats. In this background, our Government felt that their visit to Pakistan could not do any harm; I may also add that their visit to Pakistan-occupied Kashmir using the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus was cleared on the basis of agreed procedures. That Pakistan decided to invite them to visit Islamabad and other cities in Pakistan violated an understanding on these procedures that had been reached between India and Pakistan. Passports were issued to those Hurriyat leaders who did not possess Indian passports and made a request for the issue of such documents. It would not, therefore, be correct to state that the authorities on our side had mishandled the visit of the Hurriyat.” He also declared his readiness to talk to the Hurriyat.

Advani followed Vajpayee with his letter to PM on 13 March 2007 having learnt that accord with Pakistan was close. He had already “expressed our concern about certain formulations and suggestions then circulating”; i.e. on the 4-Points. The BJP’s objective was “to end cross-border terrorism … not create a dialogue on such non-viable issues as joint supervisory mechanism, demilitarisation, shared sovereignties etc. in J&K …demilitarisation of J&K is inconceivable which is why any suggestion to that effect deserves summary dismissal.” He also dragged in “Dawood Ibirahim, Tiger Memon, Sayed Salahuddin” as ones who enjoy “safe haven” in Pakistan. “General Musharaf’s four point formula about J & K has introduced new and unacceptable dimensions to an already complex situation. The concept of joint supervisory mechanism, soft borders, demilitarization and self-governance are aimed at diluting India’s sovereignty over J&K. Why have we not rejected this outright? Observations attributed to you about making boarders irrelevant have further contributed to the prevailing confusion”. 

Dr. Manmohan Singh’s reply of 14 March 2007 was terse; “Several ideas” were being “discussed at various levels … we do not believe in conducting diplomacy in public…” That process began in earnest in 2005 and continued in the back channel even after 2007 till he relinquished office in May 2014. Modi has now wrecked that peace process as Vajpayee had proposed in 2005.