J&K : HURTLING TOWARDS POLITICAL UNCERTAINTY
Last month has been quite eventful for the State of Jammu & Kashmir; not that it was not in headlines before that. However, this time round, the political temperatures rose & fell sharply, to once again bring the State into the focus at the national level.
What started the present round of interesting activities was the statements/comments and feelers sent out by People’s Party MLA, Sajjad Lone, stating that he could carry a faction of PDP & Congress with him to form a stable government in coalition with BJP. The claim sounded credible enough. Though Sajjad Lone has only 2 MLAs of his own, he appeared to be in a position to form the government; only if he was able to engineer large-scale defections from both PDP and Congress, and even NC. Some PDP MLAs had already indicated their unhappiness at having been divested of the loaves of power after the PDP-BJP coalition fell. The disgrunted MLAs seemed willing to join Sajjad Lone’s group after leaving their party, PDP. On further analysis, the proposition of Sajjad Lone heading a government with just 2 MLAs of his own, appeared rather unrealistic; even comic!
While the media went to town with this statement and all kinds of conjectures being made by the political analysts, in came the news that PDP & NC had decided to join hands, (with Congress providing outside support), to scuttle any chance that Sajjad would have had of forming the government. On the face of it, all the three parties had adequate members to collectively cross the magic figure of 44 to form the government. Though, all the important leaders of the above three parties confirmed that they had sent a missive to the Governor, Sh. Satya Pal Malik, the Raj Bhawan issued a statement denying receipt of any such intimation.
Be that asit may, despite the stories on the media doing the rounds about claims &counter-claims being made by various parties about their being confident of forming a stable government, on late at night on 21 Nov 2018, the Governor dissolved the house for the ostensible reasons that such claims would have led to horse trading of the worst kind, something that he was determined to prevent.
The sudden dissolution of the house after it had been kept in suspended animation since BJP withdrew support to PDP led coalition, on 20 Jun 2018, created a political slugfest between various political entities in the state. The PDP/NC/Congress combine accused the Governor of partisan conduct, as they felt that their‘combine’enjoyed the support of adequate number of members in the State Legislature to enable it to provide a stable government. On the other hand, the opposite combination said that they too represented the majority view in the Assembly and the Governor’s action had denied them their legitimate right at trying to form a government.
If one were to dissect dispassionately the Governor’s action, one would notice that the initial decision to keep the Assembly in suspended animation served no purpose at all. After all, whenever a ruling coalition falls, and no one is able to provide a stable alternate government, the Assembly is kept in suspended animation with the sole purpose of providing the legislators an opportunity to stitch together a stable alternative. Here, the PDP/NC/Cong, despite their inner contradictions, seemed to have enough numbers to provide such a government. Politically too, it would have been to the long-term advantage of the BJP, as NC/PDP would have found it very difficult to run a smooth government, given their arch-rivalry, particularly in the valley, where they share a common vote bank. Power sharing at the cadre-level too would have been unmanageable. This would have certainly resulted in further bad blood between the two, eventually helping the BJP at the forthcoming hustings. I feel that BJP lost this opportunity.
Congress, by providing outside support to the coalition, would, perhaps, have been the only party to have benefited from this venture. With its dwindling support base across the state, it would have wielded power without shouldering much responsibility. Congress, therefore, must have been disheartened by the dissolution of the State Assembly.
While the Governor’s contention that he prevented the much-cursed-horse trading of members of the Legislative Assembly, has some merit, that possibility, always existed, as long as the Assembly remained in suspended animation. Besides, dissolving the assembly within a few hours of various combinations trying to cobble up a coalition and staking their claim, also created doubts in the minds of the people. After all, the very purpose of keeping the Assembly in suspended animation is to let the democratically elected members to try their utmost to form a government,the very purpose for which the elections are held in the first place. If that was not the case, the Assembly would have been dissolved immediately after coalition government had fallen on 20 June 2018.
Now that the die is cast, people of the State will have to wait till they elect the new assembly. Hopefully, this time it may throw up a clear – cut winner!