IS THE BJP about to indulge in some kind of political adventurism in Jammu and Kashmir with a politician now in the Raj Bhawan and the state Assembly in suspended animation?
Top BJP pointsman and strategist for Jammu and Kashmir, Ram Madhav, made certain observations pregnant with many hidden meanings, including the possibility of bringing back to life the state Assembly that went into a limbo after the Mehbooba Mufti government was effectively ousted.
Satya Pal Malik is the first thoroughbred politician in the last more than five decades to have become the governor of Jammu and Kashmir. Congress' Karan Singh, the blueblood Kashmiri royale, was the last such politician to grace the Raj Bhawan.
Of course, Jagmohan, who also held the gubernatorial position, was a consummate politician but he had come from the ranks of the bureaucracy. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, clearly on the advice and persuasion of Ram Madhav, has taken a big risk in putting Malik in a position that should ideally have been ceremonial but is executive in every sense of the word in Kashmir, often even when an elected government is in place.
"The legislators have to be encouraged to actively undertake political and developmental activities in the state." – Ram Madhav
In an article in the Indian Express, Ram Madhav has given many indications that a revival of the Assembly could well be on the cards, though he stopped short of stating it explicitly.
"The legislators have to be encouraged to actively undertake political and developmental activities in the state," Ram Madhav said
, while underlining the importance of the BJP-led Centre appointing a politician as the governor.
In the wake of Kathua, when the chism widened
Reminding that the Jammu and Kashmir legislative assembly, with 87 members, "is in suspended animation" and "has a tenure of over 30 months left," Ram Madhav left little to imagination when he wrote
, "It is not the gun of the security forces or the pen of the bureaucrats that should be the permanent feature of governance; it must be returned to the political leadership sooner than later."
In order to buttress his "sooner than later" line of argumentation, Ram Madhav did not flinch from even quoting the former police officer, AM Watali, whose memoirs castigated all political forces: "Continuous denial of democratic rights to people and fraudulent elections are major causes of disenchantment of the people....Political space was never allowed to be widened."
Ram Madhav's tone remains respectful towards Mehbooba Mufti, even after the bitter parting. In fact, he liberally quoted anecdotes from Mufti-Vajpayee conversations in the past.
Madhav said Watali's observations may be a case of over-generalisation, "but the point about widening political spaces needs to be taken seriously."
Ram Madhav claimed that the fact that a long line up of governors sent to the state of Jammu and Kashmir came from within the ranks of bureaucracy or military, the significance of the latest transition "shouldn’t be missed."
Lest any particular section of the Kashmiri polity takes exception to the latent moves in the power corridors of Delhi to awaken the Assembly and breathe life into it again, Ram Madhav's tone remained respectful towards Mehbooba Mufti. Not only had he left behind the "Mehbooba Mufti is lying” rhetoric far behind in the past, he, in fact, liberally quoted anecdotes from Mufti-Vajpayee conversations in the past, and also invoked the spirit of Vajpayee's "Insaniyat, Kashmiriyat and Jamhooriyat” line of approach.
"(W)hat J&K badly needed at this juncture was a politician with a political vision — one who understands the significance of political activism and with whom the local politicians can relate," Ram Madhav said.
Ram Madhav's agenda is clear cut: Keep the National Conference on board, not let the rapport with the PDP sour beyond a point, and ensure that political activity in J-K is kick-started.
Ram Madhav has been the key interlocutor of BJP for Kashmir, and was the architect of the unwieldy, and some claim the illegitimate, alliance between the BJP and the PDP. Also, he was the one who called it off.
J&K governor Satya Pal Malik and PM Modi
Of the many qualities of the new governor Malik, including his being "a lawyer by education and a politician with vast parliamentary experience of around four decades...a leader of great learning and knowledge," Ram Madhav also added another qualification. He said the new governor's "past friendship and association with leaders like Mufti Mohammad Sayeed has given him valuable insights into the politics and problems of J&K."
Political experts that Punjab Today spoke to, in both New Delhi and Srinagar, said just as the governor's agenda is clearly cut out — in Ram Madhav's words, accelerating development activity, resolving the governance deficit, and continuing with strong counter-terror measures — so is Ram Madhav's.
He needs to keep the National Conference on board, not let a special rapport with the PDP sour beyond a point, and ensure that political activity in the state is kick-started.
"It is even a matter that will decide the success or failure of Ram Madhav as the BJP's man for Kashmir. Madhav has been working hard to make a mark. Kashmir is a quagmire where many a political reputations are buried, but it is also a temptress that beckons those who aspire for political immortality," said a keen observor of Kashmir affairs who is also an advisor on Punjab Today's panel of editorial consultants.
The Amit Shah-Modi school of thought is not attuned to such politics. Ram Madhav may lose to his own.
The move to play around with the suspended animation state of Assembly is well timed since Kashmir is in any case set for some political activity as the outgoing governor NN Vohra had announced elections to local bodies.
Yaadein hee bachi hain bus!
While, as Madhav said, the "new governor being a politician can be an effective interlocutor for initiating the dialogue process," the real test will be if Ram Madhav and the BJP can bring back to life the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly without any stake holder losing political credibility.
It has 30 months of life left, but the Modi government has even fewer months left. Will it pile stakes in a gamble that is too notorious because it is the house of terror that invariably wins when any one stakeholder tries to cheat?
Kashmir needs more democracy and more political action, but uninterrupted. The Amit Shah-Modi school of thought is not attuned to such politics. Ram Madhav may lose to his own if he is unable to convince them that political progress in Kashmir may bring more dividends than Kashmiri Muslim bashing. The quagmire beckons him, and so does the temptress. It happens when you do the politics of gun in the streets of paradise.
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