Intro: There are so many permutations and combinations available for forming government in the state; BJP-PDP, BJP- National Conference (NC), PDP-Congress and many more are being contemplated
The people of Jammu and Kashmir have given their mandate in the assembly elections. Their effort deserves the highest respect since natural calamities, freezing cold and militant threats could not deter them from exercising their democratic rights. Ever since the results have been announced the electronic media has gone overboard in contemplating the shape of the government against the backdrop of a hung verdict. The political parties, naturally, are keeping their cards close to the chests in the midst of hectic backdoor negotiations to reach to a consensus.
There are so many permutations and combinations available for forming government in the state; BJP-PDP, BJP- National Conference (NC), PDP-Congress and many more are being contemplated. The smaller parties and independent also see an important role for themselves. In fact, even the option of PDP forming a minority government with outside support of the NC, however bizarre, is doing the rounds.
A good way of reaching to a conclusion would be to understand what the voters have voted for. The voters, first and foremost, want democracy and change which is quite evident from the high voter turnout and anti-incumbency nature of voting.
Political parties that fought the election on the plank of progress, peace and development have garnered maximum votes and seats. The youth of the state (who constitute the political centre of gravity of the state) want personal progress even over development. They want dignity through work; they want the necessary skills to be able to fend for themselves not only in the national but also the global arena. Nobody is interested in the outdated political agendas of yore.
It is amply clear from the voting patterns that the Jammu region and the Kashmir valley look at politics from different prisms. This sentiment of the people has to be respected. The dominant position of the Kashmir valley in politics of Jammu and Kashmir is now history, all three regions now have an equal stake in the affairs of the state and none can be neglected in favour of the other. Any segment of the state leadership that tries to maintain the political dominance of the Kashmir region over the Jammu region will be rejected.
The red lines of the verdict are also quite clear. First, there cannot and should not be a re-election. It is up to the leaders to understand the different perceptions and make necessary adjustments to provide a stable coalition government. It is the maturity and farsightedness of the political leadership of the state which is now being put to test. Second, since no party can override the agenda of progress, peace and development the perception that the Kashmir based parties will be committing political suicide by aligning with the BJP are grossly misplaced. In fact, if a party tries to sideline the BJP and construct a shoddy government based only on ideology, it will write its own death certificate.
It is an open secret that BJP has the support of Sajjad Lone’s J&K Peoples Conference and that makes it the largest viable political coalition. This, along with its dominant position in national politics, gives to it an edge in government formation in Jammu and Kashmir. BJP has the option of choosing between the PDP and the NC.
Under such circumstance it is the common minimum programme (CMP) that a set of coalition partners can chalk out which will be of importance. The CMP that can meet the overriding need for peace and development while keeping divisive political ideologies at bay would be the most effective. Also necessary in a coalition would be near equal representation to the voice of the two main regions of Jammu and the Kashmir valley. The BJP has, during the election campaign, rooted for an end to the discrimination of the Jammu region. The party has also promised to put the entire state at par with the development index of the Indian nation. The main agenda for the party, therefore, remains development.
The BJP has a strong stand on rehabilitation of all refugees in the state which includes the Kashmir Pundits in the valley, the West Pakistan refugees in the border belt of Jammu and those of the minority community who fled from their home and heart due to the terrorist threat.
So far as the stand of the BJP on the issue of Article 370 and its proposed abrogation is concerned, the party has made it clear that it would prefer the path of public debate that leads to a people choice in the matter rather than politics of agitation and disruption. The constitutional status of the state in the contest of Article 370, therefore, is not likely to hold political centre stage for the moment.
The BJP now has to see who would be the best coalition partner to meet the promises that it has made to the people of the state. In these equations the portfolio of the chief minister gains importance only to the extent that the incumbent should be acceptable to all regions in equal measure and should have the maturity to steer the coalition successfully.
It should not be forgotten that the security situation in the state will now get into a sensitive phase. Terror mongers across the border are bound to renew their efforts to destabilise the region with all means in their power which includes political disruption by their stooges in the civil society of the state. The need for extra vigil by the people as well as the security forces is more now than ever. In this regard the new government will need to be extra cautious, it simply cannot politicise security.
Jammu and Kashmir is poised to embark on a new, interesting and vibrant phase in its history. Those forming the government have a mandate of the type that no other government has had in the last few decades. Those in opposition also will have a very positive role to play in highlighting and safeguarding the interests of their constituents. It is fervently hoped that this golden opportunity is not frittered away.
(Jaibans Singh is an analyst with expertise on J&K affairs)