What was touted as a triumph of democracy seems to be fast turning into a major disappointment as political parties in Kashmir have not been able to cobble together a government even three weeks after the results were declared. Now that outgoing chief minister Omar Abdullah has said he does not want to be caretaker, there were only two options. Either a coalition government is formed or that the state be put under governor’s rule. The latter option has been implemented now. Mr Abdullah does have a point in saying that many people have been rendered homeless, some killed, in shelling along the border with Pakistan in Jammu. He says he is unable to do much for them given his status as caretaker. He raised the issue of his inability to help the victims of the devastating flood last year as they face the icy winter in makeshift lodgings. The people who had disregarded all threats to their safety to come out in huge numbers must be sorely disappointed by this turn of events. As also the parties like the BJP which had done well in the elections. But, none of the permutations and combinations seems to be working so far. It is clear that the vote was not for governor’s rule.
All parties want to err on the side of caution but surely, if they wanted to they could have come up with a coalition which could function under a common minimum programme. The PDP, the frontrunner with 28 seats, should, if numbers are the logic, go with the BJP but it seems worried that a tie-up with the saffron party could affect its core constituency negatively. The National Conference, smarting under its loss, has signalled its willingness to explore all options without quite spelling them out. The Congress has been forced to watch from the sidelines because it simply does not have the numbers to be a decisive player in a coalition. The state certainly wanted change from the Abdullah regime, during which governance was a casualty. But, if the other parties cannot get their act together after all these days, it raises worries of how they can co-exist in a coalition where differences will sharpen.
The election also saw a decisive comeback of Kashmiri Pandits into the political mainstream, it saw a rejection of the separatist brand of politics and a genuine hope for a more decisive and open government. So it really is to shortchange the people of the state that they will have to wait for more time before things settle down in the state. Governor’s rule was inevitable, but every effort should be made to stitch together a coalition as fast as possible and fulfil the people’s mandate.