Azad’s Entry Into J&K Politics Likely To Disrupt Familiar Patterns
Kashmir’s Politics Still Anchored By Grievances, Anti-India Underpins
The entry of Ghulam Nabi Azad, the mainstream political titan, into the politics of Jammu and Kashmir will majorly impact the dimensions of Kashmir’s politics. One expects major political shifts to happen, which will change the situation that has been seen over the last two years.
The government is going to undertake the revision of electoral roles, going by the statement of the Chief Electoral Officer. People are keen to see when the elections will be held to the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly. The political parties are readying to try their luck and build narratives to lure the electorate.
What we are witnessing just before the entry of Azad into the region’s politics is that almost all the political forces of Kashmir valley are strictly confined to the politics of grievances. The statements of all the valley-based leaders issued to the media from time to time are by and large along similar lines. They have grievances against both Centre and the UT administration.
Rallies are being occasionally held by different political forces to talk about these grievances. Kashmir-based politicians try to remain ahead of each other in voicing the concerns of the people and score points over each other. This, of course, is the quintessential political activity.
Each political party and its spokespersons do not leave any chance to malign the others. This is not unique about Kashmir politics. Such mud-slinging politics is being played out nationwide. The difference is that the accusations and allegations that the Kashmir-based political forces level against each other are about who has been more close to New Delhi, particularly during the BJP rule.
Kashmir’s Politicians Pitched On Old Battle Lines
The theory of being on the right side of the ruling party in New Delhi is now been denounced by the same politicians who have perfected this art. It is amusing to see these same Kashmir politicians abusing each other for being close to New Delhi. The whole construct of Kashmir politics still remains anti-establishment in its dimensions. There is no change at all in the political bible of Kashmir’s politicians. Their politics is exactly the same as it had been before the abrogation of Article 370 of the Constitution of India. The narrative of the entire political spectrum in Kashmir continues to be anti-Indian.
In this aspect of rationalizing the rhetoric of the Kashmir-based political parties, the Indian state does not seem to have achieved the desired goal. Security was one of the major objectives for the abrogation of Article 370. Changing the narrative of the political parties was equally important, but this has not been achieved.
Security situation aside, one of the aims of the abrogation of Article 370 was Indianizing or nationalizing Kashmir politics. There is something which seems to have structurally gone wrong in Kashmir. Either the establishment in New Delhi has not been able to nationalize Kashmir politics. Or the establishment has not strengthened those political players in Kashmir who could have nationalized Kashmir politics.
Two Major Factors At Play
Currently, two major factors seem to be at play besides foreign intervention in Kashmir’s troubled waters.
- The political forces in Kashmir believe that the genuine concerns of the public have not been addressed – rather they have piled up. Kashmir’s political leaders are also building the rhetoric that the insecurities and apprehensions of people have multiplied because of certain actions of the administration. In some instances, this feeling is correct.
Take for instance the recent statement of the Chief Electoral Officer, which was later called as misrepresentation of facts – that 25 lakh non resident voters will be added to the Electoral College of Jammu and Kashmir. The statement was later denied by the administration, but it caused the damage.
The statement invited severe criticism from the political parties on one side. On the other side, the statement came as a shock to the politically sensitive people of Kashmir. The political parties who somehow represent the feel of the ground are convinced that people are not happy with the administration. On the other hand, the administration strongly believes that people are satisfied with the functioning of the government. They too have inputs from the ground in support of their belief. The truth lines between these polarities.
- The political parties in Kashmir fear reprimand and rejection of the people. Hence they are reluctant to reconcile with the existing realities.
People Are Ready To Move On, The Leaders Are Not
The fear is not that people are not ready to reconcile. The actual fear of the political leaders is that they shall be reprimanded by people and will be accused of selling false dreams for decades.
There are social indications that people are ready to forget about the grievances of the past and strive for a peaceful future. But the same politicians who have befooled them for decades now don’t allow the people to forget.
The anti-India narrative anchors Kashmir politics even now. In addition, there are other factors which attribute to the construct of the anti-India politics in Kashmir. A major challenge is that the political establishment, rather the political formation ruling in New Delhi, and the political class of Kashmir – both these sides are more comfortable in polarization of the political narratives. Both have a classical understanding of building narratives based on religion as the central theme of their politics. The provocative statements from both sides communalize the environment. This serves the communal interest of political parties on both sides of the divide.
The exercise of revision of electoral roles is likely to ignite political responses on both sides. Competitive anti-establishment rhetoric could be at its best in coming months. It remains to be seen how Azad’s entry into the politics of Jammu and Kashmir disrupts this familiar pattern.
Some observers say that the ruling right wing BJP can indulge in notoriety to divide voters along communal lines. We may not agree with such hasty pronouncements. But taking into consideration the anticipated communal twist in the electoral politics of Jammu and Kashmir, one would certainly prefer to have no elections rather than having elections marred by violence and hatred.