"Lack of a visible mass opposition is hardly a pointer to the public support"

Greater Kashmir

The secret to success will be walking the knife edge between the two

Now that PDP seems to have decided to join hands with BJP, its ideological anti-thesis, there is little in the public opinion that gives a sense of palpable discomfort with the likely alliance – that is, other than the opinions aired in the edits and opeds of the state’s newspapers.

And here again, many of these opinions take a more or less a simplistic view of things without a nod to the deep complexity of the existing situation. But then lack of a visible mass opposition is hardly a pointer to the public support. More so, when over the past twenty five years, the people in Valley have learnt to disguise their political emotion.

Much of it in respect of the mainstream politics. For example, there was little in the public opinion that could point to PDP sweeping the parliament polls in Valley early last year. And based on that performance when we calculated that the party would sweep the Assembly polls, it came up drastically short of the projection, pushing it in a hopeless predicament it finds itself in today.

Though PDP is apparently spoilt for choices, what with NC and Congress individually and jointly wooing it for the alliance, the party believes their abstract secular advantage far underweighs their practical drawbacks. Hence the coalition with BJP for a “more representative, stable and workable government”.  This is possibly what Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, grown on the treacheries of the state’s conflict-ridden politics – and mindful of the showdown of the 1983 election in which Congress with 24 seats in Jammu was left out of the government by NC with an absolute majority – thinks is the best of the bad options available with his party.  The single-most reason that gives alliance with BJP a decisive edge is that the party rules at the centre and is thus anticipated to hobble any rival combination in the state.

But stripped of the fancy arguments that PDP has dished out to embrace BJP – talks with Pakistan, separatists, Article 370, AFSPA etc – the only strong case for a PDP-BJP government is its apparent capacity to provide a good government in terms of funds and development. But its Achilles’ heel will always be the politics and the ideology of the BJP. PDP can’t thus escape the grievous political costs of overlooking it anymore than NC did by conniving at the Congress policies. And this will be a tragedy for a party which has just arrived on the scene. In allying with the BJP, the party will be up against a lot of history, baggage, agenda, ideology and of course everyday dilemmas which if not handled to the expectations of its constituency could decimate PDP.

The coalition has certainly its potential and possibilities but for these to realize BJP has to transmogrify into a national version of PDP.  What is not a matter of this remote possibility is the BJP’s concrete agenda, programmes and a multitude of small daily actions and of course statements that could take their toll. True, people can be fickle-minded, would demand their bijli, sadak, paani together with occasional ideological massaging and the identity reassurance and might still vote for the rival party. Such is the politics. But this is not the entire politics. This can only be a short term phase of politics. The long term survival of the parties is a play of complex factors but in this flux it is the amount of faith they cultivate and retain with their constituents that determines their repeated electability. Politics of a party builds over time and leaves a public memory that dictates the response of people. It is for this reason that NC has progressively declined over the past three decades. The party after  its return to electoral politics post-1975 Indira-Sheikh accord has hardly stayed true to the aspirations the people or reassured their deep identity anxieties -.even while appearing to bat for them. One seamless theme of the party’s politics is that it has been overridingly power-centric.

When PDP joins BJP for a “stable state government”, it had better be also informed by this cautionary tale beside the untimely end to the majority NC government formed out of the 1983 election. In the final analysis, what will matter is not PDP’s joining BJP but how the coalition operates on the ground. That is, when the rubber meets the road.  The secret to success will be walking the knife edge between Ghar Wapsi and Love Jihad.