So problematic have been the results of the elections in Jammu & Kashmir that any political opinion-maker must run the risk of pleasing some and displeasing the others – whatever one might say on the subject of government formation.
It will be only a proverbial Daniel who might remain above suspicion from one quarter or the other. Given that the conundrum constitutes options that are deeply fraught in regional and ideological profiles and compulsions. One must find credible arguments to proffer a resolution and relegate the counter-argument. Easier said than done. Clearly, any intervention must preclude the hope that its force of persuasion will be received with equanimity in all parts of the state.
Why what presents itself to some honest interlocutors as the most obvious and correct course to take seems to me deeply flawed. In doing so, I will indeed do nothing of any startling originality, but rather put on record opinion that is already gaining ground.
Ergo, even as in terms of geographical and demographical symmetry and logic, the coming together of the PDP and the BJP offers itself as the perfect answer to the problem, I see such a course unwise and hazardous from a political and historical perspective.
Prem Shankar Jha has correctly hinted ("Testing Times Ahead," GK) that the BJP of our day is not the BJP of Vajpayee era. That hint needs to be elaborated: the BJP of today is not the BJP but the RSS—a fact to which the Home Misnister of India honestly testified some weeks ago. When asked wether the government at the centre was constantly under pressure of the RSS, he quipped jovially that such a question was redundant because those running the government are the RSS. There is no greater corroboration of this reality than the studied silence that the Indian government continues to maintain on the unfettered public challenges voiced day in and day out by one or the other satrap of the Sangh Parivar, including members of parliament and ministers, to the constitutional order of the republic. The litany here is too numerous to be cited, as what might have been considered the unspeakable continue to be spoken from the assurance and arrogance of a majority in the Lok Sabha, and of an administrative-political control structure that clearly sees the RSS as greater mentor than the Constitution of India.
The PDP needs to understand that it is in this light that the electorate that have voted it so decisively in the valley have viewed the present day BJP, in sharp contrast to how Kashmiri Muslims had some years ago warmed to Vajpayee who was seen, inherited spots notwithstanding, as carrying a rather liberal and humanist approach to issues in the state, and committed to a secular constitutional dispensation by and large. Indeed, had the BJP still been Vajpayee-led, it may not have been improbable for the party to have broken some ice in the valley.
Given those considerations, it could not but seem a blatant betrayal of the PDP's quality of mandate to join hands with the very forces whom the valley electorate strained every nerve to keep out. Clearly, were the party to do so, it might win a battle but would surely lose the war. One of course expects the PDP, as everyone else, to remember that the bones of contention in the state are, like it or not, sharpest and potentially most intractable within the valley. Any relegation then of the valley mandate could not but give a fillip to forces that would be more than mightily glad to say to the people there "we told you so."
Although some sixty two seats out of eighty seven have gone to parties opposed to the RSS, were the PDP not to align with the BJP, there would be the perception that Hindus of the conjoint state had been left out of state power. And the secular leadership and tradition of the PDP might justly be worried on this score. Yet, if any political formation in the country best understands such eventualities without being too hassled, it is the BJP. After all, think that of its total elected membership in the Lok Sabha,there is not a single Muslim. Every time that such questions are posed to the BJP, it answers that it does not give tickets on the basis of denominations but of winnability. Never mind the conclusions that it does not think Muslim candidates winnable ones, were it conceded that such indeed is the BJP's real reason for denying them tickets.
But, even more importantly, the political/philosophical question that the PDP must answer is the following: even if it is acknowledged that the results in the state have followed a religious divide, should a party committed to the constitutional principle of secular citizenship then cater to that reality and formalize, as it were, a system of separate electorates, or should it be its statesmanlike task to seek enlightened ways to breach that reality? One would expect and hope that a Mufti Mohammed Sayed would undertake the mission to carry an alternate politics to the Jammu province, directed at re-stitching the oneness that was so outstanding a fact of the state's culture and politics prior to 1990. Were this task to be left unattempted, one might ask what sort of future the state is likely to have, and by extension, India as a whole?
One is not here, of course, even mentioning the interminably ugly situations that would be certain to arise during the course of the next six years if the separate electorate idea were to be embraced in pursuit of a stable government, notwithstanding any common minimum programme.
As things have turned out, one is reminded of the wisdom of the old idea of devolution of authority within the conjoint state of Jammu & Kashmir that was compiled by a committee headed by the late Balraj Puri in the early years after Independence¬¬—a report that initially had the consent of the Praja Parishad as well, till things took a different turn. One is also reminded that an Autonomy resolution passed by the Jammu & Kashmir State Assembly during Vajpayee's tenure as Prime Minister was unwisely rejected by his government. Perhaps, the results of the recent Assembly elections are once again pointing us to that course, where a bicameral Assembly within the state may be envisaged, with stated powers and prerogatives, and rights of control and decision-making flowing down to the Districts, Zillas, and Panchayats.
The best democracies in the world, such as in Scandinavia, have long understood and practiced the principle that often devolution is the most trustworthy form of integration.
For now, when the RSS-driven BJP seems in no mood to comprehend the finer points of democratic politics, either in the state or anywhere else in the country, the best course, on all counts, for the PDP might be to take the support offered by the Congress party—which, interestingly, has a better geographical spread than any other party—and to hope that the JKNC would do the same.
It would be fatally incumbent on all three parties to concentrate with earnest and sustained attention on the electorate in the Jammu province, especially sections that might have voted purely on denominational considerations. It must not be forgotten that twelve of the thirty seven seats in the province have gone to parties other than the BJP.
There is one other perception that needs to be analysed. The seemingly obvious thought that were PDP not go with the BJP, the state would suffer at the hands of an inimical central dispensation. The question is whether the electorates variously through the republic should always vote only those parties to power who occupy the centre. Clearly, such an idea flies in the face of the many state governments that went to the BJP during the UPA's rule at the centre. Can, in this matter, a pragmatic opportunism be allowed to displace the sanctity of the federal principle? Should state governments stand upto any denial of their constitutional and statutory rights or take the easy course to capitulate to the rough-shod procedures of a possibly undemocratic regime? Not that it is likely, one imagines, for any regime in Delhi to strangulate the state of Jammu & Kashmir for funds and such like, especially a regime that seeks only to further integrate it into the Union, and that now feels it has electoral stakes within the area.
The BJP in the state also plays a political role that best contributes to the integration it seeks rather than to any further alienation of Kashmiri people.