Kashmir’s Political Leaders At A Loss – Except Seemingly Sajad Lone 

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How To Position Themselves Politically?

With no indication whatsoever about when the election in Jammu and Kashmir will be held, the political parties face a dilemma of how to flex muscles and how to position themselves as and when the polls are held. There is confusion among top political leaders about what should be the issues that they should go ballistic with in order to attract the electorate. National Conference seems to be lost between two lines of thought. So far the leadership of National Conference has not been able to come clear on the planks on which the party wants to contest the elections. There are mixed signals from Abdullah Senior. Dr Abdullah tries to play safe but gets swayed by the circumstances at times. Omar Abdullah, barring a few television interviews, has been silent.

People’s conference headed by Sajad Lone seemingly is an exception. If his coterie is to be believed, Sajad is clear and categoric. He doesn’t want that impractical and emotive issues should in any manner become part of the narrative. Sources reveal that in a recent meeting of the top executive, Sajad took strong exception to what some of his party colleagues suggested about allowing space for soft separatist politics. Barring Sajad and Mehbooba Mufti, no other political party in Kashmir valley has clarity on what kind of politics they are envisioning for the people.

Strong NC Lobby Wants Party To Accept New Reality, Position Itself Accordingly

According to reliable insiders, a strong lobby in National Conference (NC) has conveyed to the party leadership its reservations on doing politics around Article 370. Sources say this lobby wants that the party should not go against the flow. Rather, it should accept that the rules of the game have changed and it would be wise on part of the leadership to play the game according to the new rules.

This lobby comprising senior leaders and former ministers are of the opinion that time has come when the politics of deceit should be abandoned and people should be told the truth, however inconvenient however it may be. A senior NC leader candidly appreciated the steadfastness and straightforwardness of individuals like Sajad Lone who have chosen not to opt for political adventurism. The leader said that time has come when all political leaders of Kashmir should behave responsibly, not for their partisan interests but to save Kashmir from further distress.

The political leader said that there are many mass leaders in the National conference who share these concerns. “Everything in Kashmir politics is in black and white. It will be appropriate to choose between one. If we don’t do that, it shall be great disservice to the people of Kashmir,” he said.

Pakistan investing heavily on Mehbooba to keep separatist politics alive 

Mehbooba Mufti was left clueless after her government was toppled in 2018. She has very limited electoral prospects in Kashmir, irrespective of when the elections are held. Mehbooba is trying to regain lost ground by pitching herself against the might of the Indian state and playing victimhood. Her target is not the upcoming election – she is particular about casting her daughter in the lead role in the political theatre of Kashmir.

Physical indicators suggest that Pakistan is investing heavily on Mehbooba Mufti to keep separatist politics alive in Kashmir. By that standard also, the aim is not the election but the revival of street theatrics and the authority to rule illegitimately through mobs. The idea is to bargain in the long run using the same modus operandi that Syed Ali Geelani perfected with manufactured protest.

Where Sajad and Altaf Differ

Apni Party of Syed Altaf Bukhari has the credit of going against the wind immediately after the events of August 05, 2019. It is in confused space now essentially because of the grievances against the local administration. Altaf is clear about his future politics, but the grievances are high on his mind. Because of limited experience of electoral politics, he messes up both, due to which there is confusion.

During conversations and public interactions, Sajad has indicated that he is aware of the grievances. The clarity he brings forth is that these wrongs shall be rectified once he is in power. His stand is that one must not lose focus of the real target – power.

Why does Altaf seem missing in this clarity? Perhaps because of the pressures he faces from his cadre, who went against the wind with expectations that were sky high. At this juncture, Altaf needs to take a clear view of the pursuit of power and the grievances against the bureaucracy. The Kashmir bureaucracy has always been more powerful than in any other part of the country. The objective of the government has been that in the conflict scenario, the bureaucracy must govern without intervention from any quarter. It is here that Syed Altaf Bukhari and his cadre lose patience. So we find that at times, Altaf outpaces Mehbooba and others in taking the administration head on. Over the past few weeks, Altaf has been more vocal in his criticism of the Administration than his hawk rivals in NC and PDP. Both Sajad and Altaf are of the view that the lapses of the bureaucracy are unintentional. But the fact remains that any complaints against the bureaucracy go to the advantage of NC and PDP.

The confusion also seems to be there on what the Centre is up to as far holding elections in Jammu and Kashmir is concerned. NC, Congress and other small players including PDP have no idea about what kind of political arrangement New Delhi is up to in Kashmir. The big question that is generally being posed by the political leaders cutting across the party lines is that who will be the chief minister and from where.

Lax Security For Sajad Lone?

The perception among many quarters is that the entire SSG (Special Security Group Kashmir) seems to be left to the service of the Abdullahs and the Muftis. More than 300 SSG personnel guard them. Their cavalcade is bigger than the cavalcade of the LG. Abdullahs and Mufti enjoy every single privilege from the government only to keep the narrative of secessionism alive. How can this be justified?

This correspondent twice visited Sajad. Surprisingly, there was not even a single police wala at the gate to enquire about the purpose of visit, or why one was going inside. On books, Sajad enjoys Z Plus security cover. On the other hand, one may say that even a bird cannot fly across the residence of the Abdullahs and Mufti. There is some evidence that suggests that a section in the police and civil bureaucracy still take orders or at least accommodate Mufti and Abdullahs more than others.

Another genuine complaint is that the workers and cadre of Apni Party and People’s Conference are not allowed to connect or interact with the people for security reasons. On the other hand, National conference and PDP workers, who avail the same security, are given free passage. There are many other such grievances that have annoyed both Altaf and Sajad. Both have responded to it differently. Sajad is silent, Altaf agitates on such issues. His public posturing could be appropriately described as Na khuda he mila na wisal e sanam.

A Senior NC Leader On The Hard Truths Kashmir Politicians Must Face 

NC leader who did not want to be named gets candid with KZINE

We must honestly mark the end of the era of deceptive and delusional politics.

A question I often face is that why did some political leaders believed to be close to the Abdullahs left the party. Movements across political parties are not new. They have always been part of electoral politics. The exit of Devender Rana and Hilal Raheem Rather was a great loss for National conference. I shall be the last man to leave the party but the first one to speak my mind. The era of emotive and exploitive politics has ended.Abrogation of Article 370 and 35A and bifurcation of state into two Union Territories no doubt was a unilateral decision. It ultimately led to the disempowerment of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. But given the geo-political scenario, the action seems to be irreversible at least in near future. So we should be focused on two things:

  1. Deflate the attention of the people from what could not be achieved by the confrontation. Let us learn to live and let live with peace and harmony. We should provide a secure environment to our younger generation which is only possible by the politics of reconciliation.
  2. The world is evolving with the pace of a missile. We need to come out of our cocoons and be part of the evolution. For that, we need to reject violence in all its forms and manifestations and secure a safe environment for the people to flourish.

On Dr. Farooq Abdullah

The top brass of our party is clueless about the ground reality. Till the recent past, Dr Abdullah was the only leader in Jammu and Kashmir who would feel the pulse and never ever go with the tide. Dr Sahab was known for telling the inconvenient truth even in highly volatile situations. In 2010, Dr Farooq Abdullah categorically advised Chief Minister Omar Abdullah not to resign when pressure was being built by many quarters. “He would coolly say that extraordinary situations are temporary. We should not take any decision under the influence of such temporary situations. I am surprised to observe that Farooq Sahab seems nervous. It seems that he is not able to sail the boat amid the storm.

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