Command Centre politics is back

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Be it suspense created over Srinagar’s mayoral candidature or Governor Malik’s growing posturing as New Delhi’s political supervisor in the defiant valley, the politics of the place is getting intriguing at the moment.

By Haseeb Ali

It’s not always that a former chief minister of the state would seek explanation from Raj Bhavan about his phone being ‘bugged’. But when Omar Abdullah lately quizzed Governor Satya Pal Malik about it, Kashmir’s shadowy political affairs resurfaced at a time when even Delhi’s regional assets have been rendered ‘irrelevant’ in the larger polity.

Much of this political tension is being attributed to the 2019 general elections in the mainland India. And it doesn’t appear a blown notion—given how coming events have already cast their shadows in the valley.

What’s further making it a tad trusting development is the growing political posturing of enforcing ‘nationalist sentiment’ in Kashmir with institutional support. Even the likes of NSA Ajit Doval—whose make-believe doctrine hogged much limelight in Kashmir due to its arm-twisting defiance management—threw his weight behind such politics.

In this backdrop, many fear that Kashmir imbroglio might further escalate. And as BJP’s possible electoral trump card in the run-up to 2019 polls, Kashmir is likely to stay as political arena for a while now.

Already, the political liaison between Delhi and its regional counterparts has severed to a level where the new emissary in the office is now sounding like a “viceroy”, deputed to cut “the disgruntling regional unionist camp” to size.

The NC loyalists never recall a time when they had become some “expendables” for Delhi — especially after their supreme leader, Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah entered into a political wedlock with it, in 1975.

But now, when both NC and PDP are literally accusing Malik of being a hard-power executor in Kashmir — who’s apparently undoing their political constituency by going after their votebank’s backdoor employment, a political tension can be seen gripping the valley’s unionist camp.

Much of this political backlash is being attributed to Delhi’s recent “red-faced” moment in Kashmir—when it almost drew a naught in the name of “return of democracy”.

But the manner majority of uncontested candidates celebrated their victories from deserted polling booths, underlined Delhi’s desperation to tame the tiger gone wild — even if that meant to make cult of the last vestiges of “democratic” representation in Kashmir by promoting ‘nameless and faceless’ candidates.

While South Block conveniently shunted out its traditional assets in the form of NC and PDP, some non-state actors were mobilised to harp on the regime change in Kashmir.

Infact, the larger political pattern surfaced when UP’s controversial chief minister Yogi Adityanath raked up Kashmir by singing paeans of J&K’s Hindu rulers of the yore.

Already, Delhi at behest of its political governor and its key Kashmir ally, Sajjad Lone was busy in the new asset-building exercise in the valley.

All of them were on the same page regarding Srinagar’s new mayor. Infact, when Lone named Junaid Mattoo—the “foreign educated” guy predicted by Governor Malik during his TV talk—as his mayoral candidate, the NC deserter curtly received BJP’s support.

While many see this political bonhomie as the beginning of the political irrelevance of the twin unionist parties, a Srinagar-based analyst draws parallels between the 1999 and the 2019.

“The way Vajpayee government created PDP in 1999 to cut NC to size, similarly the Modi government is supporting PC with the BJP’s support to downsize both PDP and NC, in view of 2019,” the analyst known for his biting political commentaries says.

Already the uncontested win, mainly by BJP candidates, in Municipal polls have emboldened the so-called “pariah” camp so much that they’ve begun to see themselves as Kashmir’s new handlers.

“This is Sangh sitting on the Delhi throne at the moment,” the analyst continues, taking a long drag of his cigarette in a city cafe. “For them, NC and PDP are equally responsible for creating what they called a ‘separate emotion’ in Kashmir, as is the resistance camp. So, they want to clear the decks for the larger integration of Kashmir with the union of India by coming down heavily upon both these parties, who’re offering some resistance in this regard.”

This is now becoming the immediate worry for both the camps, especially at a time when their votebank’s shoddy appointment has fared on Governor Malik’s anti-graft crusade.

But as Raj Bhavan is regularly receiving the delegations through its “open gates”, the political scene is further turning intense and incisive.

It’s believed that some concerted efforts are also underway to undermine the Kashmir representation in government machinery at a time when India’s ‘celebrated’ managers are heading the Kashmir affairs — be it on administration, police or political front.

Even the civil society lately expressed its concerns over the promotion of IAS/IPS lobby in Kashmir over KAS/KPS camp.

“It actually shows that New Delhi under Modi government is not ready to even trust its own Kashmiri counterparts,” says a senior police officer of 1999-KPS batch. “This trend has to stop somewhere. Our younger counterparts from IPS camp whom we schooled as interns have now become our bosses, while we await our transfers, promotions and other dues!”

Although such developments often lose their relevance in the din of the larger politics in Kashmir, many local officers assert that there’s no bad blood between them and their Indian counterparts. But then, certain political plots are quite discernable.

And given how some officers — who have cut “collaborator” images for being CI veterans in Kashmir — are glowering over the turn of events makes the entire politics insidious in the valley, which’s largely grappling with the martial management.

While this might be a classic case of whining amid whiplash, the January 19, 2019 deadline for Article 35A is already approaching fast—and setting speculations afire. The media trial has already sets sword of Damocles hanging on the state subject law — which bars outsiders from property rights, government employment and scholarships in Jammu and Kashmir.

Even though the resistance camp and the civil society have warned of public uprising in wake of any judicial misadventure, Governor Malik—who maintained “all is well” stance over Kulgam killing—might mull a full-blown martial management against Kashmir’s dissent, instead of working to end an impasse, and help resuming the stalled talks over Kashmir. Indeed, the K-politics is getting intriguing at the moment.

 

 

This story first appeared in November print issue of The Indus Post.

 

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