May 2019 News

New Political Parties Gain Ground In Kashmir Valley

7 May 2019
The Tribune
Samaan Lateef

Srinagar: With the entrance of new political parties and the existential crisis of sorts in the PDP, which dominated the political landscape in Kashmir for nearly two decades till it allied with the BJP in 2014, the political spectrum in Kashmir is likely to change in the coming months. As the Assembly elections are likely to be held in the fall this year, IAS-turned-politician Shah Faesal's Peoples' Movement would be keenly watched. Faesal is attracting a massive crowd in his native district of Kupwara after he started door-to-door campaigning last month. At the same time, Sajad Gani Lone's People's Conference (PC) would complete a decade in the mainstream politics this year. In 2009, Lone shifted to the mainstream politics and unsuccessfully contested from north Kashmir's Baramulla parliamentary constituency. Since then, Lone has made his party a competitor to regional parties - NC and the PDP - which indicates that the new parties are created to fragment the political spectrum of Kashmir. Faesal, who recently floated the J&K Peoples' Movement, says he along with Awami Ittehad Party (AIP) chief Engineer Rasheed is bringing respect to the mainstream electoral politics which has been snatched because of the misdeeds of the existing political parties. 'The democratic institutions can be utilised to enforce and protect the rights of people. Electoral politics is not all about taking dictations from Delhi. It is about representing Kashmir in Delhi, not Delhi in Kashmir,' he says. Political analysts believe that for a competitive electoral politics, bringing in new faces by moving away from dynastic politics, which is the main feature of the South Asian politics, is paramount. 'It diversifies the political discourse and makes it more competitive,' says Aijaz Ashraf Wani, a political analyst. Both Lone and Faesal are trying to lure the youth towards the electoral politics and have thrown new and young faces into Kashmir politics. Lone says the political landscape has remained unchanged for a very long time and has remained dominated by two dynasties - the NC and the PDP. 'There are clear signs that people are fed up with and tired of the dynasties. I believe people see in us a vehicle that will transcend the state of changelessness into a state of change,' he told The Tribune. The PC fielded candidates for all three Lok Sabha seats in Kashmir. It is likely to put a good show in the Baramulla and Srinagar parliamentary constituencies. He has also decided to contest from all 87 seats of the Jammu and Kashmir State Legislature. How far Lone's development slogan will gain resonance in Kashmir will depend much upon the Lok Sabha results. Rasheed says people have accepted his brand of pro-Kashmir mainstream politics and it is on display in the Lok Sabha election campaigning in north Kashmir, where people came out to listen to him during night hours also. Another political commentator, however, believes the entire spectrum of aspirations in Kashmir is represented by separatists, even if symbolically. 'Mainstream has utilitarian importance only. You go to them for jobs, roads, drains etc. It's not ideological or emotional or inspirational engagement but utilitarian engagement,' he says. All new entrants are gaining space because the PDP, which emerged as the largest political party in J&K in the 2014 Assembly elections, is going through a crisis, resulting into a political vacuum in Kashmir. Who will gain that lost political space among the new entrants will be seen in the next few months.