There are cogent reasons to believe that the NC, the PDP and the Congress or the PAGD would not learn lessons from their humiliating defeat and that they would pursue the divisive line that they all through follow
The process to elect 20 chairpersons of the 20 District Development Councils (DDCs) — 10 each in Jammu province and Kashmir Valley — was finally completed on February 19. Now, it’s time to reflect on the political status of the parties/formations and their respective areas of influence taking into consideration their successes and failures. It has become imperative given the fact that the first-ever elections of DDCs were held on purely ideological planks and on the issues of Articles 35A and 370, bifurcation of J&K into two Union Territories of J&K and Ladakh, statehood and integration\disintegration.
The story of NC is also pathetic. It’s sinking. Its ship is fast drifting towards the rock. Formed in 1932, it dominated the state’s political scene for 70 long years and ruled or misruled J&K for almost 42 years.
Congress: The so-called grand old party of India, the Congress, which ruled J&K between 1965 and 1975 and shared power with the NC and PDP between 1975 and 1977 and 2002 and 2014, suffered a humiliating defeat. It won 26 out of 280 territorial constituencies in the UT but failed to win even one post of chairperson out of 20. This, despite the fact that it had left no stone unturned to mislead and hoodwink the electorate. Congress was part of the highly divisive Farooq Abdullah-led People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD). At the same time, it had repeatedly sought to mislead the electorate by saying that it had nothing to do with the PAGD. Its whole objective was to fool the Jammu electorate in particular. Full credit goes to the politically alert electorate, which refused to walk into its devious trap. That the Congress had become a political pariah in Jammu province, its core constituency, could be seen from the fact that it failed to win any Lok Sabha seat in 2014 and 2019 general elections and couldn’t open its account in any of the 30-odd Hindu-majority assembly constituencies. As for Kashmir, the Congress’ support base has been rather limited. It’s a different story that the JKPCC chief would invariably be a Muslim from Kashmir. One would not cross the line if it is opined that Congress is virtually out of the J&K’s political arena.
People’s Democratic Party: The story of the 22-year-old People’s Democratic Party (PDP) of Mehbooba Mufti is no different. In 2014, the PDP had decimated the NC by winning all the three Kashmir Lok Sabha seats and emerged as the single largest party in the assembly elections by winning 28 seats, mostly in Kashmir. It defeated even Farooq Abdullah in the Srinagar Lok Sabha constituency. Earlier in 2002, it had achieved what was considered unachievable: It dislodged the well-entrenched Kashmir’s oldest religiopolitical outfit, National Conference (NC). Between 2002 and 2005, the PDP headed a ragtag coalition government of which the Congress, the JKNPP and the People’s Democratic Front (PDF) were the parts. The essentially separatist CPI-M supported the PDP-led coalition government from outside. The PDP also governed J&K between March 2015 and June 2019 with the help of the BJP. The point is that the PDP was a political force to reckon with in certain parts of Kashmir. But gone are those days. It could win only 26 territorial constituencies, 25 in Kashmir and one in Jammu in the DDC elections. Today, it’s on the ventilator. It can be seen from the fact that it could win only one post of chairperson in Pulwama district and that too with the support of the NC and the Kashmir-based J&K People’s Movement. It’s hardly necessary to reflect more on the political status of the PDP and its area of influence as the meaning of the verdict was loud and clear.
National Conference: The story of NC is also pathetic. It’s sinking. Its ship is fast drifting towards the rock. Formed in 1932, it dominated the state’s political scene for 70 long years and ruled or misruled J&K for almost 42 years. The last NC ruler was the UK-born Omar Abdullah. He ruled with the help of Congress between 2009 and 2014. Earlier in 2002, he took over as the party president – the post he held for almost 16 years. In between, the NC suffered three humiliating defeats. In 2002, the NC’s tally came down from 57 in 1996 to 28. In 2008, it again won 28 seats. And, in 2014, Omar Abdullah further reduced the NC’s tally. Only 13 seats it could win. He himself lost the election from one of the two constituencies he tested political waters in and could win from the second by a narrow margin of 100-odd votes. His uncle and former minister Mustafa Kamal, who would repeatedly say that “CM of the state has to be a Muslim and Muslim from Kashmir”, lost security deposit. He came fifth. How many territorial constituencies the NC could win in the DDC polls and how many posts of chairmen it could capture? It won in 67 territorial constituencies and captured six posts of chairpersons, three each in Kashmir (Bandipora, Ganderbal and Anantnag) and Jammu (Kishtwar, Ramban and Rajouri). In Kashmir, it could win with the help of the PDP, the Congress and the JK People’s Movement. In Jammu, it could just win with the support of the Congress and independent elected members. That the NC could not win even the post of chairman on its own strength and that it was decimated even in Srinagar district clear all the cobwebs of confusion and establish that it has become irrelevant even in Kashmir for all practical purposes.
What about the BJP, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), J&K National Panthers Party (JKNPP) and the Dogra Swabhiman Sangathan (DSS)? The BJP, which emerged as the single largest party by winning 75 territorial constituencies, won six posts of chairpersons on its own strength and all in Jammu Province’s Kathua, Samba, Jammu, Reasi, Udhampur and Doda districts. It was destined to bite the dust in Kashmir for reasons not really difficult to fathom and it did. It could win only 3 out of 140 territorial constituencies in Kashmir. As for the three other Jammu-based political parties, the JKNPP won from only two territorial constituencies in Udhampur district, the BSP won one in Kathua district and the DSS failed to even open its account. They were destined to be wiped out. The political situation in Jammu province was such.
The overall picture: the BJP won six posts of chairpersons, the NC also won six but with the help of non-NC members, the PDP won one and the remaining seven posts of chairpersons went to the JK Apni Party (Srinagar and Shopian), CPI-M (Kulgam), the People’s Conference (Kupwara) and independent candidates (Baramulla and Budgam in Kashmir and Poonch in Jammu province).
There are cogent reasons to believe that the NC, the PDP and the Congress or the PAGD would not learn lessons from their humiliating defeat and that they would pursue the divisive line that they all through follow. The statements which these parties or the PAGD members have been making post-DDC elections establish that.
In conclusion, it can be said that the DDC elections have exposed many and helped the nation tell the international community that the people of the J&K UT have rejected the votaries of Articles 35A and 370 or special status on the score of religion.
1. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of PGurus.