Kashmir After Elections: Why It Isn't Just About Numbers

23 December 2014
The Hindustan Times
Vinod Sharma

New Delhi: There's a creative way of looking at the badly fractured verdict in Jammu and Kashmir that necessitates political rivals to come together to cobble up a regime. On the face of it, the outcome may give the impression of a Jammu versus Kashmir scenario. But in reality, it isn't so. Only the BJP has failed to register its presence in the Valley. Other parties have picked up seats in both regions. An honest consolidation of the tenuously inclusive vote would be to give the state a regime with respectable stakes in power for all the three regions, including Ladakh. Only an arrangement of that nature, regardless of who joins whom, would be a celebration of India's non-denominational secular character that negates Jinnah's two-nation theory. That kind of power equity can broadly be achieved by even a PDP-BJP coalition, the former having won most of its seats in the Valley and the latter in Jammu alone. Given the numbers they jointly have, the coming together of these parties that drew a blank in Ladakh, might assure legislative stability. But given the nature of the campaign they ran, it would entail considerable political risk for either to explain the rapprochement to their constituents. Besides the BJP's historical position against Article 370 of the Constitution-that accords a special status to Kashmir-perceptions about it in the Valley are determined by a host of other factors. One among them is the 2008 economic blockade of the Valley by Jammu. Triggered by an agitation in the Valley against the alleged 'transfer' of a piece of land to the Amarnath Shrine, the blockade saw the PDP and the Hurriyat threatening to march across the LoC (Line of Control) to trade fruits in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK). In this backdrop, the political cost for making strange bedfellows with the saffron party could be greater for PDP leader Mufti Sayeed in the Valley. While the BJP can sell, if at all, the tie-up as 'fair bargain' for a share in power for the first time in the State, the PDP could countenance an immediate three-way attack from the Hurriyat, Omar Abdullah's National Congress and the Congress. But the challenge would be greater from the separatist Hurriyat whose 'boycott' call the electorate ignored to turn out in large numbers to keep the BJP out. A pointer to that is its failure to open account in the Valley despite vigorous electioneering by Narendra Modi. Odd as it may seem, if the numbers can be worked out, the PDP might opt eventually for a lesser legislative clout in the House over a diminished popular base it. In that eventuality, it might go with the Congress that has performed better than expected by returning on a dozen seats. It's pertinent to mention here that a clear majority can only be worked out in a PDP-BJP coalition. Other possible combinations-be it PDP-Congress or BJP-NC-stop short at around forty, which is less than the magical 44 in the 87-member legislature. If it decides to stay off Modi's party, the PDP may need the half a dozen 'others' besides the Congress to set up a regime. Conversely, a deftly worked out common minimum programme addressing the Valley's concerns might be the answer if it crosses the psychological barrier to embrace the Jammu-centric BJP. After the waiting game that all elections are, it's guessing time in Delhi, Jammu and Kashmir.