By Antara Mukherjee:
The election results of Jammu and Kashmir on December 24 were fragmented and a true reflection of the affairs within the state. PDP with Mufti and BJP with Narendra Modi surfaced as neck to neck contenders, the former winning by just a little.
The current conundrum in the state and in the eyes of the whole country is – what will be the image of the next government? Both the parties have been politically and historically very different, and not friendly towards each other. Even though the BJP muted the issue of the special state and Article 370 for the sake of the election results, PDP had disbanded any sentiments of alliance with the saffron party pre-result. It had encouraged and represented an anti-BJP sentiment in the valley.
What is now clear is that this decision that PDP leader Mufti will have to make soon will make or break the aspirations of Jammu and Kashmir as a state. The election results have correctly and powerfully represented the current mood of the region. PDP seems to have gained most of the Muslim votes in Kashmir, Ladakh and Jammu, whereas BJP seems to have won the votes of most of the Hindus in the valley. The result hints towards the deep polarisations being felt by the people of this region.
Therefore, even though PDP won as the single largest party for the formation of the new government, it cannot ignore the close win of BJP, representing a large Hindu population in its heartland. A coalition is the best solution to represent and unite different communities. The results have created a clear divide, represented a clear communal emotion that could turn dangerous if the future government isn’t well thought out.
Functionally and politically, the new government has a huge pressure on it before it’s even made. It has to be cohesive and very careful about who it chooses to include in its fold.
Greater Kashmir reports “Amitabh Mattoo, former Vice-Chancellor of Jammu University has correctly observed that elections in Jammu and Kashmir are much more than a democratic ritual. In the popular imagination, they have been powerful symbols – of faith and betrayal; of resistance and accommodation; of hope and disillusionment; of confidence and uncertainty”.
Over the last few months we have seen certain saffron parties like the Sangh Parivar and its affiliates carrying out and supporting mass forced conversions of other religious communities into Hinduism. It supports it and has created a bad name for the BJP, whether or not the party in question chooses to remain silent about it. This intolerance if at all makes a single entry in the already flammable valley, it could start a fire that will not be ended by mere words or political apologies, but in ruin. Muslims in the valley are currently very wary of BJP and its alliance to such fascist political units.
Even PDP which is clearly a Muslim dominated party will be required to mute its anti-BJP stand to keep peace with the Hindus in Kashmir. They will be required to be as diplomatic as they can by putting behind histories of religious conflict and that of Article 370.
Hence, the PDP and BJP have to be very careful as though walking on eggshells while figuring out who sits in power. The valley isn’t like the rest of the country. Its history has made it different, more prone to political accidents and less tolerant towards communal politics.
The BJP seems very ready and interested to represent the Hindus of the region, and maybe they will stick to productive spokespersons just like PDP will have to, to make this work.
To reiterate, the election results have divided the support and unity in J&K but in it also lies the opportunity to form a government that resolutely works for development, progress and peace in the region. A government that will concentrate on action for important issues instead of indulging in divisive politics. A government that will re-write the political history of the valley, including maybe becoming an example of unity between two polar opposite parties that nobody imagined would work together.
The next announcement from the state will be awaited with bated breath, with hope and from a critical viewpoint. One can only hope that the one of the most sensitive of all the states in our country will find in it a perfect solution through a democratic process and calculated and responsible diplomacy.