Jammu and Kashmir slipping into the governor’s rule even after witnessing the highest-ever voter turnout since militancy erupted in 1990s only besmirched the fledgling democratic process in the conflict-ridden Muslim majority state and dampened renewed hopes.
Unlike other states where the governor’s rule is a constitutional compulsion to follow up lack of consensus or numbers, it has different connotations in J&K.
The lack of political will by leading parties, like People’s Democratic Party (PDP) with 28 and BJP with 25 members in the 87-member assembly, to address the aspirations of people only accentuates the idea of those who oppose the democratic process being a means to resolve political problems.
The successful and large scale participation of people in the 2014 polls has come despite the turbulent tenure of Omar Abdullah, which saw three major street agitations - the double murder case in 2009, a cycle of killing of protesters in 2010 and the hanging of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru in 2013.
Despite separatists mobilising hundreds of protesters during these street protests, the people of Kashmir boycotted their boycott calls to infuse a new faith: that all problems, including Kashmir issue, can be given a chance to be resolved democratically, through representation and discussion.
People indeed braved a number of hurdles, including pressure from the militant groups, to come up to the polling booth and cast votes for a new hope and new dawn. Though the polls threw up varied region-centric aspirations - from Kashmir valley to Chenab valley to Pir Panchal to Jammu to Kargil and Ladakh - there was a common meeting ground that people aspired to see a stable and successful democratic process.
People voted for mature parties
People voted for politically mature parties, equipped enough, to deliver on the challenges posed by the divided mandate, where all regions are to be taken along to address different dimensions of the Kashmir issue.
The governor’s rule has only brought a bad name and a bad history written by the PDP and the BJP, which has highest numbers to form the government.
The BJP, in the process, has lost the high moral ground against the Congress. The BJP always accused Congress of tampering democratic processes in the state, which saw first governor’s rule in 1977 because of the Congress decision to pull out of the popular government. Is BJP going the Congress way by reflecting opportunism? Should Delhi polls and border firing dictate BJP’s approach?
Onus lies on the BJP
Like in the past, when the Congress was ruling at the Centre, the onus once again lies on the BJP in New Delhi to show statesmanship in Jammu and Kashmirand see through a popular government backed by political innovation to address issues ranging from governance to the large political question, which remained a poll plank of all regional parties too.
For the PDP, there is a chance to emerge as an alternative and unifying force for the state to help form a government that safeguards interests of all the regions, not just the Valley, and put to rest brewing fears around the question of identity and distinctness of the state. If BJP and PDP misses the bus this time and fails to deliver on political challenges, the governor’s rule is only a starting point of an unending uncertainty, which can see Jammu and Kashmiragain in the throes of 1990s.