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Sunday, January 11, 2015

Poisonous chalice and fragmented mandate

Who could have ever predicted the surreality of our times where an ultra rabid Hindu party became a leading force in the state of Jammu and Kashmir? Formation of any government seems all but improbable without BJP being part of it. Though, it singularly failed to win a single constituency in Kashmir, nevertheless it did find find enough people to fight election in the valley under its banner. Though not many will remember, the party had tried in earlier times to get a foothold in Kashmir.

Back in an earlier era, elections in Kashmir would mostly be decided, without votes being cast, in the offices of district deputy commissioners. The elections for the central parliament and the state assemblies would be announced with all fanfare matched by declaration of candidacies by various political outfits and independent aspirants. The ruling party, democratic national conference (DNC) that later turned itself into a franchise of Indian National Congress, of course, would anoint its own list of candidates to become members of the state legislature. The due process of elections would begin with filings of nominations and would in most cases end on the day of scrutiny. Barring a miracle, most of the candidates not belonging to the ruling dispensation would find their nominations rejected. The reasons for rejections could range from outright bizarre to utter absurd. For a few days there would be protests and outrages that eventually petered out with time and newly elected members of the state assembly assume their due places of power.

Under those circumstances, it was around late 1966 or 1967, the Jan Sangh, an earlier and equally rabid avatar of BJP made a foray in Kashmir. It opened its offices in dingy houses,  recruited workers, mainly Pandits. In the election of spring 1967, it did announce its candidates for some constituencies but its bid ended on the day of scrutiny along with all other opposition candidates. Back then even at an all India level party was consider no more than a motley crowd of rabble rousers with following confined to urban centers. But its rabid agenda was as obscurantist as it remains now. But perhaps lack of dissemination of information allowed the party to function in Kashmir for a few months, until one of its bigoted leaders, Balraj Madhok, decided to visit the place to raise its fortunes by asking, at a public rally, Muslims to migrate to Pakistan. That was the last time anybody in Kashmir saw a Jan Sangh office until now.

The irony is that in that era when elections were decided in favor of the ruling party by returning officers, Mufti Sayeed used to be beneficiary of the system. Now as a head of PDP, he has been handed a poisonous chalice in the form of a fractured mandate. Should he join the party of Madhok's descendants or not? But then every chess game has its moment of checkmate.

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