The Re-aligning

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MIAN TUFAIL

IN a groundbreaking development, the political landscape of Jammu and Kashmir is undergoing a significant realignment, marking a historic shift in the region’s political forces. Traditional alliances are being redefined, giving rise to a new era of political dynamics that could potentially shape the destiny of the union territory.

One of the most notable aspects of this realignment is the emergence of unexpected partnerships and the dissolution of longstanding alliances that have defined the political narrative in the region for decades. Leaders from various political parties are engaged in intense deliberations and negotiations, sparking intrigue and speculation among both the public and political pundits.

  • Dissolution of traditional alliances

The political landscape is witnessing the dissolution of longstanding alliances that have dominated Jammu and Kashmir politics for years. In the history of J&K, we have seen how the regional force National Conference aligned with the Congress through thick and thin, despite the fact that Congress timely dealt major blows to the National Conference, such as the dethronement and incarceration of its founder Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah. The support of Congress to Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad and GM Sadiq while keeping Sheikh Abdullah behind bars, also marked a complex history.

In 1984, Rajiv Gandhi played a crucial role in defecting leaders from the National Conference and establishing a new government in the state. Post-1996 elections, the National Conference formed an alliance with the BJP. However, despite Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah’s rapport with the then PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the government couldn’t garner support for its autonomy resolution. The BJP dismissed the resolution, casting it into the dustbin.

The National Conference, throughout its existence, has aligned with every national party, irrespective of ideology. The last 30 years reflect how the NC has adopted a facade ideology to keep power corridors open for its leaders.

The People’s Democratic Party, initially a mainstream wing of Jamaat-e-Islami, fought elections to keep the National Conference and Congress at bay. However, the party formed an alliance with the Congress in the 2002 elections and later with the RSS-backed BJP in 2014, all with the aim of gaining power in Jammu and Kashmir. After the split with the BJP, the PDP formed the mega alliance PAGD with the NC and the Congress to advocate for J&K’s rights, post the abrogation of Article 370. However, the PAGD faced internal strife with its constituents accusing each other of political malfeasance in the erstwhile state.

  • The present scenario

Today, we witness a massive realignment of political forces from national to regional levels, prior to the General Elections of 2024. The realignment is not driven by any ideology or commitment but a sheer greed for power and privilege. From Himanta Biswa to Jyotiraditya Scindia, Ashok Chavan to Shahnaz Ganaie, Altaf Bukhari to Sajad Lone – all political realignments reflect only one commitment, which is to garner power by hook or crook.

Congress has turned into a bankrupt political force in the country at present. When these leaders leave Congress, it’s a fact that the ideology of Congress has turned redundant and is now non-existent, finding very few takers.

The history of frequent changes in political alliances in Jammu and Kashmir raises suspicions about the sincerity of these realignments. Some parties are accused of switching alliances opportunistically, aligning with whichever group offers the best chance of obtaining or retaining power.

  • The Valley dynamics

In the Valley, political realignment is not confined to mainstream politics only. Surprisingly, the last three decades depict how separatists, who worked against the system, intruded into the affairs and decisions of successive governments only to garner perks, privileges, and vested benefits. Separatists functioned as an additional chamber of government in recruitment and decision-making. Today, the same Jamaat, which worked against the state machinery, is seeking political asylum with PDP and Apni Party to remain relevant in the political sphere of Kashmir.

After the introduction of the Pahari Reservation Bill in the Parliament, Pahari leaders with allegiance to traditional NC and Congress are en-masse joining the BJP after the grant of favours. Critics argue that the shifting alliances lack ideological consistency, suggesting that political parties may compromise their principles in pursuit of power.

Deepikar Pushkar Nath, a political commentator, and renowned advocate, while talking to KC says that the politics of opposition in the country has reduced due to drift in ideology and the consistent checkmates by the BJP with different decisions and laws. She adds, “The opposition has remained a dormant force in the country for the last decade, and BJP has checkmated it with numerous decisions. The realignment prior to the elections is happening massively this time as former chief ministers of the Congress party are jumping into the BJP. Viz-a-viz Kashmir, Parliament elections will set the tone for Assembly elections, and any comment at this time would not remain opportune.”

The region has witnessed numerous political promises in the past that were not fulfilled. Skeptics argue that the current realignment might be another instance of leaders making grand promises to gain public support, only to backtrack on those commitments once in power.

Tariq Ahmad, a student of Political Science, talking to KC reveals the opportunistic mindset of Valley-based politicians, which remained the main reason why Kashmir witnessed tumultuous phases in the past 30 years. Says he: “The J&K politicians view elections as a ploy to cord alliances with parties having different ideological viewpoints. Our politicians, despite remaining in one of the special regions, lack robust politicking and commitment. They tend to make alliances with those with power at the Centre. This year’s Assembly election will not be different from past experiences”.

Politics in Kashmir is synonymous with power with a big P. Mainstream parties are hell bent upon throwing every card which will bring them closer to BJP. The BJP today is a strong force – both at the Centre and states, and any coalition without the BJP is like a chair without a command.

In a significant revelation shedding light on the intricate political landscape of Kashmir, former Srinagar Municipal Corporation corporator and officer bearer Danish Bhat discloses about a purported tactical alliance between the National Conference (NC) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Bhat contends that the NC is unswervingly dedicated to leveraging every possible card to forge closer ties with the BJP, an influential force at both the central and state levels. According to Bhat, discussions about a potential alliance between the NC and the BJP are said to take place discreetly among NC leaders behind closed doors at the Nawa-e-Subh, the NC headquarters.

Bhat further alleges that the NC’s current actions reflect a concerted effort to align with the BJP, going to great lengths to please the ruling party. He asserts that the NC exhibits indifference to genuine public issues, refrains from filing a review petition in the Supreme Court against the decision on Article 30, and actively distances itself from the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD). These purported moves, as outlined by Bhat, are seen as part of a strategic pursuit of power and a potential future deal with the BJP, highlighting the pragmatic nature of political alliances in the region. The revelations suggest a nuanced and complex interplay of political strategies and interests within the Kashmiri political landscape.

While the realignment in the country presents an opportunity for positive change, skepticism remains regarding the authenticity of the motives behind these political manoeuvres in Jammu and Kashmir, where power remains supreme among the political class. It is essential for the public and observers to remain vigilant and hold political leaders accountable for their actions to ensure genuine progress and development in the region in the times ahead.

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