The irony couldn’t have been greater. On Sunday, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad inaugurated the new assembly building.
By Monday, he had lost his job. Ahead of the confidence motion moved by the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), a coalition partner, over the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board land transfer, Azad has stepped down as CM. To his credit, Azad has chosen not to prolong the drama when he realised that he could not muster the numbers needed to see his government through.
Rather than engage in horse-trading and trading accusations, he has resigned ahead of the Assembly elections. Now that the land transfer, sanctioned by the former governor, has been cancelled, those who were up in arms — including separatists like Syed Ali Shah Geelani — will be probably fade into the shadows where they have been smarting for some time.
With Pakistan preoccupied with its own internal pulls and pressures, the separatists had been left to their own devices.
The PDP has not dealt from the top of the deck in this case, having gone along with the government in the land-transfer issue, only to change its stand when it sensed the public mood.
The fact that Azad has done the honourable thing and not tried to cling on to power by hook or by crook will go in favour of the Congress when elections come to town. He was caught in a cleft stick. If the Valley was in flames over the land transfer, Jammu is now seething after it has been cancelled.
In these circumstances, it is best for all parties to wait and seek a fresh mandate. This way, there will be no further scope to politicise an issue that had assumed communal overtones after the separatists accused New Delhi of using land to change the demographics of the region.
Even though there is no evidence to suggest this, the PDP played to the galleries vitiating the atmosphere further. The National Conference has wisely chosen to keep its powder dry and not take a stab at government formation.
The separatists and the PDP will, of course, try to keep the momentum of unrest going as long as possible. But with Azad stepping down, this will fizzle out sooner rather than later.