In yet another cynical rebuff to the popular democratic aspiration in the state of Jammu & Kashmir, the Election Commission of India has thought it fit to defer elections to the state assembly.
This, after every democratic political force in the state, including the BJP, in their face-to-face interaction with the chief election commissioner, unanimously sought assembly polls simultaneously with the Lok Sabha ones.
Let it also be recalled that the honourable home minister had separately averred that the government was prepared to provide all the needed security should the elections to the state assembly be held.
Needless to say that not long ago, at a harsher juncture of violent disaffection in some districts of the Valley, both panchayat and urban body elections were held without any notable mishap.
Clearly, the Election Commission’s contention that if assemble polls were announced, security could have been a problem has little persuasive traction, especially when polls to parliamentary seats will take place.
So, how may this turn of events be understood?
Omar Abdullah has interpreted this backsliding as a surrender to the separatists and militant forces, remarking on the cop-out of the macho-Modi leadership.
For once, I think that the customarily astute Omar Abdullah may have read the concatenation of events wrong. A more instructive read may be forthcoming from Mehbooba Mufti. As per reports, she has hinted at a “sinister design” without actually spelling out its contours.
A three-fold informed speculation invites to be voiced.
One, not having been successful in rescinding either Article 370, or, inter-alia, the Presidential Order encapsulated in the provisions of Article 35 A , the BJP in the state has little to show for the whopping majority the Jammu province gave it in the last assembly polls. So that, despite having said yes to assembly polls this time, a suggestion may have gone out to the effect that were the polls to be held, the party would stand to lose much of its hard-earned ground.
Two, as we know, the Presidential Order of 1854, codified as Article 35 A, one that disallows non-state subjects to own property in the state, or seek employment in state services, is due to come up for hearing in the Supreme Court in the last week of this month. Were the article to be quashed by the highest court, a whole new paradise would open up for “nationalist” politics in the state. So why not wait to find out how the cookie crumbles there?
Thirdly, and more far-reaching, were the court to uphold the article, the next best thing to do would be, should a Narendra Modi-led BJP return to power in the general elections, to revive the old demand for a new delimitation exercise in the state of Jammu & Kashmir, intended to prove that the Jammu province is demographically more numerous than the Kashmir province.
Were that to happen, a majority of assembly seats would per law be assigned to the Jammu province for the first time since elections began.
Needless to say, this would be a lethal second-best to the abrogation of Article 370 in terms of the redistribution of political and legislative power between the two provinces of the state.
The simple point is that since the commission’s argument for deferral seems rather lame, a deeper read needs to be made of the current unfortunate conjunction.
As to the will of the democratic political forces in the state, when have these ever been anywhere at the top of the national agenda? So why fret now, when a strident case may be made, and is vigorously being made, for the primacy of national security.
The Kashmir problem is best sorted out by being permanently sidelined, and, finally, perhaps by being emasculated to a consenting zombie.
Badri Raina taught English literature at Delhi University.