Present day reality of Kashmir politics remains the accentuated fear of fractured mandate. Three influential parties --- National Conference (NC), Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Congress --- are shaping up their politics with this fast seeping reality.
A close look at the coalition politics throws up an interesting cocktail of pulls and pressures. It forces ruling parties to think post-ideology and common minimum programme are pushed to be more people-centric rather a mixed bag of rhetoric and unachievable promises.
A coalition government that often mixes micro-regional aspirations with the larger state interests blunts political parties' attempt to resort to adventurism, many a times based on right-wing political stunts, but also acts as a stumbling block on developmental issues with petty politics taking a toll on reaching to a consensus.
With all vagaries of coalition politics, Kashmir throws up an interesting equation where friendship and heart rules the coalition dharma and not party interests. At least, it seems true of the ruling NC, once the only regional force to reckon with. In 1996, the NC jumped the fray despite militancy dominating the scene and won with the thumping majority in the assembly of 87 seats.
The NC's eagerness to stitch a coalition ASAP and spelled out repeatedly on public platforms smacks of conceding to a receding popularity by the party. On the other, the Congress extending the hand of friendship with majority of its regional leaders up in arms and brooding, while demanding to go alone on all six seats instead of only three as per the arrangements struck, sounds for time being nothing but undue magnanimity.
The coalition seems not a political compulsion but an outcome of the convenience of two juniors --- junior Abdullah and junior Gandhi --- to rewrite the history of their grandparents. Omar Abdullah's grandfather Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah and Rahul Gandhi's grandfather Jawaharlal Nehru are known to have unconditional friendship at one of point.
There is a flip side to the NC-Congress coalition though. There are pockets in Kashmir valley where local protesting and aggrieved Congress leaders' vote-bank may stay away from the polls, blowing a dent to their joint efforts. For many valley-based Congress leaders, the coalition for Parliament polls may prove costly to them in the upcoming assembly elections where the NC will dictate terms in the valley.
However, the NC has already conceded Ladakh to the Congress despite three assembly seats out of four represented by the NC leaders. It seems the coalition is taking toll on both sides.
With Congress stalwart Ghulam Nabi Azad re-entering the J&K politics, the NC despite Omar tweeting that "it has come as a shot in the arm" and went with Congress candidate in Jammu to file his nomination, has its leaders weary. The reason: Azad's entry means he is baying for the chief ministership. So if the coalition stays till the assembly polls, what will become of Omar Abdullah or Farooq Abdullah if the coalition comes to power? With both aspiring to be the head of the state, has NC conceded to play second fiddle to the Congress or will the Congress sacrifice Azad to make Omar comfortable? These questions hold no water for now but these might emerge as tricky ones with assembly polls nearing with each passing day.
The NC and the Congress agreeing for marriage of clash of interests, the valley's largest opposition Peoples Democratic Party is falling in the lap of the BJP. With no other force to reckon with, the PDP ensures the BJP stays in a good humour. The PDP's proximity beyond a point may prove dangerous for the party in the Muslim-majority state. That is why there might be no formal alliance between the two but an unwritten understanding to keep their respective rival --- NC and Congress --- at bay in the assembly polls.
(Peerzada Ashiq is principal reporter of Hindustan Times in Srinagar)
Blog name: BLOGGED SIDE OF VALLEY