Author : Ayjaz Wani

Expert Speak India Matters
Published on Nov 30, 2018
J&K Assembly dissolution: Is there any gainer?

The dissolution of the Legislative Assembly in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) on 21 November, coming on the heels of an attempted ‘marriage of convenience’ by the People’s Democratic Party (PDP)-National Conference (NC) on the one side and the BJP-People’s Conference (PC) on the other, is bound to have a negative impact on the democratic credentials of the world’s largest democracy. The decision is also likely to further boost centrifugal tendencies in the State.

Using his powers under Clause (b) of Subsection (2) of Section 53 of the Constitution of J&K, Governor Satya Pal Malik announced the dissolution of the Assembly after former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti of the PDP and Sajad Lone of the PC staked their claim to form the government. The reason for the dissolution of the assembly, according to the Governor,  was  “impossibility of forming a stable government by the coming together of political parties with different ideologies and mandates”. He added that a “supportive and stable government” was necessary given the State’s “fragile security scenario”. Speaking at an event in Gwalior in Madhya Pradesh, the Governor also accused the NDA government at the Centre of planning to install Sajad Lone as J&K’s chief minister. “Let me make it clear one more time. If I had looked at Delhi, I would have had to allow a government headed by (Sajad) Lone to be formed and I would have become dishonest in history. Therefore, I finished the matter once and for all and really don’t care if people abuse me for that,” he said.

Denying the NC-PDP combine a chance for floor test, has meant missing out on an opportunity to strengthen the fragile democratic setup in Kashmir, while proving that New Delhi and the BJP follow a policy of non-interference when it comes to the democratic process of the State.

Irrespective of the political games that led to the dissolution of the Assembly, the move at this juncture will not only hamper the process of integration of the J&K with the Union of India but will also give a boost to separatism and radicalisation. This move will also make the people of Kashmir more suspicious of New Delhi, especially since the dissolution has created an environment that is neither fruitful for New Delhi nor beneficial for the Kashmiri people.

Minutes after the dissolution, former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti tweeted: “in my twenty six year old career as a politician, I thought I had seen it all! But like they say never say never! Nevertheless, I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to @OmarAbdullah and @Ambikasoni4ji for helping us achieve the seemingly impossible”. Omar Abdullah was quick to retweet with his comment, “And I never thought I’d be retweeting anything you said while agreeing with you. Politics truly is a strange world. Good luck for the battle ahead. Once again the wisdom of the people will prevail”. Both the leaders did not mince words in celebrating the dissolution on Twitter, as both, since the successful municipal polls in October and the ongoing Panchayat polls, were itching for fresh elections to the J&K Legislative Assembly.

First, ever since the Governor’s Rule was imposed in June, rifts had appeared in the PDP. For example, a Shia leader of the PDP revolted against the party immediately post the establishment of the Governor’s Rule. Hours before the political drama unfolded in the State leading to the dissolution of the Assembly, PDP leader Muzzafar Baig openly supported the third front created by PC’s Sajad Lone. Simmering of unrest were also felt within the NC post June 2018. The dissolution, thus, not only saved both the PDP and the NC from splitting but also gave them a strong political lever to boost separatism and centrifugal tendencies through their demands of self-rule and autonomy respectively.

The people of the Valley consider both the NC and the PDP as ‘fiefs’ as both parties are known to help each other “to rattle the conscious and conscientious grouping to take common Kashmiris out of the conflict”. The recurrent mistakes of New Delhi in ignoring their misdeeds have made the PDP and the NC stronger, powerful and arrogant, enhancing the centrifugal tendencies inflicted on the people. The untimely dissolution of the assembly without giving a chance to the PDP-NC combine for a floor test has once again showed the inability of New Delhi as well as the Governor to comprehend the real situation.

Second, the dissolution of the Assembly will only heighten suspicions against New Delhi, as the people of Kashmir feel betrayed by the Centre following the shelving of interlocutor’s report of 2010. The regional political parties and separatists are bound to once again unleash vicious online propaganda to reignite and revitalise the post-1953 notion of “Managed Government in Jammu and Kashmir by New Delhi” among the Kashmiris. It is also likely to undo many of the gains achieved under the Governor’s Rule, where it not only gave a sense of stability and good governance but also put militants in the Valley on the back foot, thanks to the elimination of most of the top commanders of all militant organisations.

Third, the people in Kashmir believe that the BJP, despite its best attempts since the imposition of the Governor’s Rule, had failed to initiate horse trading among the regional parties and achieve the magic number of 44 to once again form the government. Congress leader and former Chief Minister Gulam Nabi Azad has cast aspersions on the BJP for trying hard to break regional parties in the State. The decision of the Governor at this juncture has given a signal to the people of the Valley that the Assembly was dissolved merely because the BJP did not see any relevance for itself in any grand alliance that could emerge and thus lose its grip within the power corridors in Srinagar.

Lastly, in a boost to the secessionist movement, the tall claims of autonomy by the NC and self-rule by the PDP will once again become more relevant in the upcoming Assembly elections. Both the parties will use the respective planks of autonomy and self-rule to appease the people, while continuing to ignore aspects of good governance that the State is badly in need of. The situation is also likely to be exploited by the separatists, militant organisations and their bosses across the border to increase the bitterness and misunderstanding between New Delhi and common Kashmiris. Surely, the dissolution of the Assembly will escalate the threat perception among the Kashmiris to new level as they already feel that New Delhi is nonchalant and disinterested.

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Ayjaz Wani

Ayjaz Wani

Ayjaz Wani (Phd) is a Fellow in the Strategic Studies Programme at ORF. Based out of Mumbai, he tracks China’s relations with Central Asia, Pakistan and ...

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