Skip to main content

Why BJP attempt to stamp its political authority in J&K through DDC poll failed

By Anand K Sahay*
Propaganda apart, the result of the recent District Development Council (DDC) election in Jammu and Kashmir cannot have pleased the Modi government. This was the first proper test of popular endorsement in J&K after the willful destruction by the Centre of the erstwhile state’s constitutional autonomy in August 2019, imbuing the poll with more than ordinary significance.
While the Hindutva party won three stray seats (with no linking thread, or political meaning) in Kashmir Valley, it lost quite heavily even in Hindu-dominant parts of the Jammu division. In these, the Valley-centric parties picked up seats.
Indeed, the BJP fared a lot worse here than it had in the Assembly election of 2014, which is a kind of comment on its all-round militaristic control of J&K since it scuttled its coalition government with Mehboba Mufit’s PDP in 2018, possibly with the ulterior motive of playing games to install a Hindu Chief Minister, if feasible, for the first time in Muslim-majority J&K, or at least a BJP CM by roping in a Muslim.
Since the end of the rule of Maharaja Hari Singh -- a Hindu ruler of mostly Muslim subjects -- after he signed the Instrument of Accession, the Hindu right has been at odds with all CMs of Kashmir on account of their religion. There was a sense of loss of a “Hindu kingdom” in their narrative.
Breaking up the erstwhile state and making it a UT under “Hindu nationalist” control from the Centre might produce a sense of catharsis. But that’s as far as it goes. Much sought success in BJP’s venture of seeking to stamp its political authority in J&K through the DDC poll failed to materialize. How the Modi government negotiates the terrain here on will therefore be keenly watched. Hindu nationalists are dealing with Muslim citizens in a sensitive region.
BJP’s outsize celebration of the three Valley seats appears misplaced and pointless in the circumstances. Its chief purpose would appear to be to shore up morale of the faithful when the picture is one of setback. Although the BJP government held a tight grip over Kashmir from the Centre, the electoral submission of Kashmir has not come to pass.
Obstacles were placed in the way of campaigning of the Kashmir parties. Kashmir’s best known leaders were maligned as corrupt and their properties sought to be confiscated. Their key cadres were detained. To prevent voting in South Kashmir, cordon and search operations were mounted on polling day in certain constituencies to assist candidates of the BJP or Apni Party -- the quisling party. 
The BJP’s opponents were detained yet again before the counting of ballots and after the counting. Does this look like democracy to anyone except the Prime Minister? And yet, it was BJP’s opponents who made themselves heard through the ballot box.
Even in the Hindu-majority area of Jammu, the saffron party could win only about half the seats, facing defeat in the constituencies of some of its key leaders. A below par showing in the Jammu division should be a matter of strategic concern for the saffron party.
To prevent voting in South Kashmir, cordon and search operations were mounted on polling day in certain constituencies to assist BJP candidates
At first glance it suggests that the Hindu populace is no longer gung-ho about the abrogation of Article 370, as appeared to be the case initially. As in some other hills states and remote regions, in J&K too special constitutional protection was given to land rights and government employment for the local population. That’s now gone in J&K and the Jammu Hindu is as aggrieved as the Kashmir valley Muslim (or the Pandit).
The story was the reverse in the Valley. BJP’s bête noire, the People’s Alliance for the Gupkar Declaration (PAGD), a conglomerate of regional parties- National Conference, PDP, People’s Conference and some smaller parties, although traditional rivals, have banded together. Their larger aim is to work for the restoration of J&K’s autonomy. They practically swept the poll in the Valley and made inroads in Jammu.
The formation of the PAGD is the result of a lesson learned. The mainline parties of Kashmir had boycotted the panchayat election two years ago to protest the Centre’s overbearing attitude after it imposed Governor’s rule. 
The result was that BJP candidates or independents backed by it won everywhere since there was no contest -- in some places by as few as six votes. The Modi government’s publicised aim was to put the mainstream parties out of business, accusing their leaders of corruption and dynastic rule, and to grow a fresh crop of politicians in the Valley.
To prevent a repeat of the farce of the panchayat poll, the mainstream parties came together as the PAGD. They decided to contest the DDC polls as well as to prevent a division of the anti-BJP vote. But more, it is the people of Kashmir, including those who have no love lost for the mainstream parties, who expressed their determination to keep the BJP and its proxies out of the reckoning.
The reason was straightforward. The saffron party’s government in Delhi had snatched away Kashmir’s even largely technical autonomy, with which was linked its people’s identity and sense of dignity. The Centre was also impervious to Kashmir’s every need as a society. The Modi regime had reversed the approach of the late PM Vajpayee for whom showing respect to Kashmir’s sentiments was bound with India’s strategic imperatives.
In the DDC election it might have served the BJP’s cause best if the Hurriyat Conference (which doesn’t take part in elections) had given a boycott call, as it usually does. Then the BJP would have had a field day. But the Hurriyat did not oblige. The militants too stayed quiet. All of Kashmir appeared determined to show that it was not pleased with what happened on August 5 last year.
However, the Centre can take revenge if better sense does not prevail. Fifty independent candidates have been elected to DDCs. Through the misuse of the official machinery, an effort could be mounted to ensure their defection, a process that has commenced in Shopian district with the defection of a National Conference member. The method honed in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Karnataka and the northeast could well make an entry in J&K. But the more New Delhi alienates Kashmir, the harder it would be to deal with the Pakistan-China axis.
---
*Senior journalist based in Delhi

Comments

TRENDING

Nobel laureates join international figures, seek release of Bhima Koregaon accused activists

Nobel laureates Olga Tokarczuk,  Wole Soyinka Counterview Desk  As many as 57 top international personalities, including Nobel laureates, academics, human rights defenders, lawyers cultural personalities, and members of Parliament of European countries, have urged the Prime Minister and the Chief Justice of India to ensure immediate release of human rights defenders in India “into safe conditions”.

Buddhist shrines massively destroyed by Brahmanical rulers in "pre-Islamic" era: Historian DN Jha's survey

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

Russia, China to call the shots in Middle East, as Muslim nations turn into house of cards

By Haider Abbas* Only a naive would buy that the ‘situation of ceasefire’ between the State of Israel and Hamas would continue, as if the foiled attempt to demolish Al Aqsa this time, is not be repeated, if not in any near future then in sometime to come. Israel already has spurned the ‘ceasefire’ by storming Al Aqsa after the Friday prayers on May 21.

Hunger, lack of food security behind India's 'slip' in UN's sustainable development rank

By Dr Gian Singh*  According to a report released by the United Nations on June 6, 2021, India's ranking of achieving Sustainable Development based on the 17 Social Development Goals (SDGs) set by the 193 countries in the 2003 agenda, which was 115th last year, has slipped to 117th position this year. India ranks not only the lowest among the BRICS countries -- Brazil, the Russian Federation, India, China, and South Africa but also below the four South Asian countries -- Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, and Bangladesh.

Collapse of healthcare system? Why 90% of Covid patients treated at home survived

By Bobby Ramakant, Sandeep Pandey* Well known Hindustani classical singer Padma Vibhu shan Channulal Mishra, chosen as one of the proposers of Narendra Modi in Lok Sabha elections, lost his wife and elder daughter to Covid in private hospitals in Varanasi. Younger daughter has accused Medwin Hospital of charging Rs 1.5 lakh for treatement of her sister and not being able to explain the cause of death. Pandit Channulal Mishra has asked for a probe into his daughter’s death from the Chief Minister. The family has also asked for the CCTV footage of the ward where deceased daughter was admitted for a week.

Rooted in mistrust? Covid-19’s march into rural India is a very different ball game

By Sudhir Katiyar* As the Covid-19 virus penetrates rural India, the rural communities are responding very differently from their urban counterparts who rushed to the hospitals. The rural communities are avoiding the public health facilities and any mention of the disease. The note argues that this supposedly irrational response is based on a deep-seated mistrust of the state by the rural communities. It can not be resolved with routine Information, Education and Communication (IEC) measures suggested in the Government of India SOP for tackling Covid-19 in rural areas.

Courageous, in-depth attempt to confirm common spiritual values of Christ, Buddha

By RB Sreekumar, IPS*  All religions, both theistic and atheistic designed conceptual and practical architecture, for holistic and comprehensive elevation and enlightenment of humanity. PK Vijayan, in his novel “Nirvana of Jesus Christ” (Notion Press, 2020) through creative imagination portrayed personality evolution of the two progenitors of God-centric and sagaciously logical major religions – Jesus Christ of Christianity and Gautama Buddha of Buddhism.

Covid fear? Cremation rituals gone upside down, Dalits asked to do Brahminical rituals

By Abhay Jain, Sandeep Pandey*  As Covid consumes human life in a very conspicuous way we are confronted with additional problem of disposing of human corpses. Cremation grounds are lit with continuous pyres, graveyards are running out of land and now Ganga has become a mass grave potentially polluting its water.

Why hasn't Govt of India responded to US critique of freedom of religion under Modi?

By Fr Cedric Prakash SJ* About two weeks ago, on May 12, 2021, the US Secretary of State Antony J Blinken released in Washington the ‘2020 International Religious Freedom Report.’ This official annual report of the US Government details the status of religious freedom in nearly 200 foreign countries and territories and describes US actions to support religious freedom worldwide. Mandated by the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998, this report highlights the fact that ‘religious freedom is both a core American value and a universal human right’.