No Politics without Delhi

Though made in present context, Altaf Bukhari’s comment indirectly throws light on some major political developments in past
Altaf Bukhari addressing a press conference in Srinagar. [Representational Image]
Altaf Bukhari addressing a press conference in Srinagar. [Representational Image] File: Mubashir Khan for Greater Kashmir

“No politics or political leader in J&K can exist without taking New Delhi into account.”

Made in the present context, the latest comment of Apni Party President, Syed Mohammad Altaf Bukhari , that no politics or political leader in Jammu and Kashmir can exist without taking New Delhi (Central Government) into account, in a way also throws light indirectly on the major political developments in the past.

In an interview, he made the comment in the backdrop of the often repeated statement of his political opponents that Apni Party is close, and in touch with the Central Government.

Justifying being in touch with union government, he said New Delhi is a reality and the power seat of the country, irrespective of which party is ruling the country from there. Bukhari added that those who want peace and prosperity in Jammu and Kashmir have to keep contact with New Delhi.

The Apni Party President said  senior leaders from other parties too are in touch with the central government even as they are “denying so and lying.” He added that one can have political differences with the party the Prime Minister represents, but not with the Prime Minister. “

A Prime Minister is the Prime Minister of the whole country and the Prime Minister of all the people in the country and that the same holds true about other ministers. Then what is wrong in having contact with the Prime Minister of the country or the Home Minister of the country,” he asked. But at the same time he asserted and commented that no J&K politics or political leader can exist without taking New Delhi into account.

His comment seems politically and historically correct if one goes by the major political developments in past. The developments, which saw forming and toppling of state governments here, kept on occurring from time to time.

Bukhari’s comment is relevant not only in Jammu and Kashmir context but in the context of other states as well. Since J&K is politically sensitive, the impact of any political development here is felt strongly at the national level as well. Even the political events at national level have their fallout here.

Recently, the Prime Minister Narendra Modi while speaking in the Parliament said that in past the Congress governments at the centre dismissed elected state governments 90 times by misusing Article 356 and that Indira Gandhi as Prime Minister toppled the state governments 50 times.

Congress has ruled the country for long from the centre and it has also ruled Jammu and Kashmir state for long, directly or indirectly. It has played a key role in formation of the state governments here and there toppling also. Just before independence and after independence the J&K leadership remained under the influence of Congress.

It was Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah who at a public rally with the then Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru in Srinagar in November, 1947 declared through a Persian couplet, Man Tu Shudam, Tu Man Shudi..... (I became you and you became I...... ).

However, the effects of couplet could not last long as the two leaders started changing their political directions and doing politics as per their own stature and egos. In the process, Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah was made to learn the first bitter lesson of politics on August 8, 1953 when his government was dismissed and he was jailed.

After 1953, Congress continued to rule the state by the men of its choice whether through elections, lacking credibility or governor rule. After years of negotiations which led to Indira-Abdullah accord, Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah became the Chief Minister with Congress support on February 25, 1975. But in March 1977, the Congress withdrew the support to the government of Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, who then using his constitutional prerogative recommended the dissolution of assembly.

On his advice the assembly was dissolved for fresh polls and governor’s rule imposed. NC alleged that the then Congress leader Mufti Mohammad Sayeed wanted to become the Chief Minister as he was instrumental in the fall of Sheikh government but his attempt was foiled due to dissolution of the assembly.

This was the beginning of the bitter political rivalry between Mufti and NC leadership which continued for decades together. The assembly polls were held in June, 1977, which the political observers say were the first free and fair polls in the history of Jammu and Kashmir. At that time Janata Party was ruling the centre and Morarji Desai was the prime minister.

The polls gave NC an overwhelming majority and Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah again became the Chief Minister. Reports say just before the elections, the Janata Party leaders of Jammu and Kashmir had indirectly conveyed to the then central leadership to rig the polls so that they can come to power. But Morarji Desai rejected such views and held free and elections.

After the death of Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah on September 8, 1982, his son Dr Farooq Abdullah took over as the Chief Minister. The Congress government at centre initially had no problem with him. But his unpredictable working style soon became a cause of concern for New Delhi.

Dr Farooq did not limit his political activities to Jammu and Kashmir only. He tried to fish in the troubled waters of national politics also. Much to the displeasure of the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, Dr Farooq Abdullah hosted a national level opposition leaders’ conclave in Srinagar. Since then started the countdown of his government.

It took some time for the Congress government in centre to engineer a coup against Dr Farooq in his party, National Conference and topple his government. His brother in law G M Shah was made the Chief Minister with Congress support. Shah being difficult to handle sometimes because of his temperament could not remain in good books of Congress for long.

His government also came to an end as Congress withdrew the support. In the meantime, Dr Farooq had learnt the lesson not to mess up with centre. His growing equation with Rajiv Gandhi after the death of Indira Gandhi saw NC getting back to power with Congress. But the alleged rigging of assembly polls in 1987, which saw NC-Congress alliance’ victory,  did not go well with the political circles.

Dr Farooq and his party again returned to power in 1996 assembly polls. He continued to stick to his learnt lesson not to take any confrontation with the central government.

However, in 2000 after realising that the popularity graph of NC was going down and Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s newly floated party, PDP, had captured his political space, his government moved and got passed an autonomy related resolution in J&K legislature. The resolution was forwarded to union government headed by Atal Bihari Vajpayee for consideration.

The Central Government  rejected  the resolution, giving a big blow to Farooq and his party. The move could not provide any benefit to NC in 2002 assembly polls. NC lost the elections and PDP and Congress formed the government. Vajpayee government was widely hailed  for the conduct of  the most  free and fair elections in the history of J&K.

In the election the chief ministerial candidate of NC, Omar Abdullah also lost. Some reports say that  Dr Farooq had approached the then Deputy Prime Minister L K Advani to at least help in facilitating the victory of Omar for face saving but he declined. However, NC dismissed such reports describing those as baseless.

The 2002 polls set a new parameter for the political leaders in J&K. The parameter that they can woo the centre but ultimately their performance in elections would matter. Success in free and fair assembly polls became a ladder to power for any party.

The process of holding the free and fair polls continued also after 2002. The last assembly polls were held here in 2014, which saw a hung assembly and later formation of PDP-BJP coalition government, which could not complete its term. The Mehbooba Mufti headed coalition government collapsed as BJP withdrew support in June 2018.

The PDP leadership was taken unawares and it was a major jolt and setback for it. The party disintegrated and most senior leaders deserted. Some of them formed Apni Party and some others joined other parties. Apni Party became a bitter critic of the policies of PDP and NC, who too do not leave a chance to hit back at the former.

The author is senior editor, Greater Kashmir

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.

The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.

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