February 2016 News
Needed A Chief Minister Of J&K, Not Of The Valley1 February 2016
New Delhi: Apparently, Jammu and Kashmir Governor NN Vohra has told the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) that they must clarify by Tuesday evening whether they will form government in the state again. But nobody knows when Jammu and Kashmir will have a new government. Will it be the same coalition between the PDP and BJP that ruled the state until the death of late chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed? Or, will it see a new coalition between the PDP and the Congress that some are talking about? Or, will the political impasse prolong the present Governor rule, ultimately leading to fresh elections in the sensitive state? Well, a close friend who occupied a very important office in the Mufti regime says that though things are not fine between the PDP and the BJP at the moment, these would be sorted out eventually. Mufti's daughter Mehbooba Mufti, who is now the supremo of the PDP, is said to be playing tough. In fact, the so-called liberal establishment in the country is literally pouring uninvited suggestions through newspaper Opeds and television studios on Mehbooba that she must practice 'secular politics' by parting ways with the 'communal' BJP and 'fascist' Narendra Modi. On the other hand, Mehbooba's party colleagues are indicating through the media that the coalition can only continue by added terms and conditions in the 'agenda for alliance' that was agreed upon earlier between the PDP and BJP under Mufti Mohammad Sayeed. On its part, the BJP does not seem to be in a mood for new terms and conditions. Apparently, Mehbooba is hurt that Prime Minister Modi has failed to keep up his promise of giving the state a liberal financial package, something that demoralised a great deal or her late father. She is also said to have not appreciated the fact that Modi did not visit the late chief minister in a Delhi hospital where he was ailing and subsequently died. Though Modi was present at the send-off of Mufti's dead body back to Kashmir, Congress leader Sonia Gandhi proved to be a much better mourner by personally visiting Mufti's house in Srinagar. Besides, by joining hands with the BJP, Mehbooba is believed to be of the opinion that the PDP is losing its principal support base in the Kashmir valley, particularly when the RSS is trying to have a presence in the valley and imposing a ban on the consumption of beef (it may be noted here that the ban on beef was ordered by the High Court, not BJP or the RSS. In any case, normally Kashmiris do not consume beef; if it is now there, that has to do with the growing Islamisation of the Valley under 'Wahabism', to which all the separatist leaders belong). Personal equations in politics are always important. And there are merits in the argument that Prime Minister Modi's style of functioning alienates friends, not to talk of enemies. But then the fact also remains that politics ultimately reflects ground realities, not lofty sentiments. And the hard reality in the state of Jammu and Kashmir is that in an 87-member Assembly, only the PDP with 27 and BJP with 25 legislators can give together a stable government. No other coalition, say PDP-Congress or BJP-National Conference, will have the majority. If at all a coalition can be managed with the support of some independents, that government will be not only unstable but also highly non-representative. After all, neither the PDP nor the Congress nor the National Conference has much representation in the present Assembly from the Jammu and Ladakh regions. That means that any coalition other than the PDP-BJP will only be representing the Kashmir valley, not the state of Jammu and Kashmir as such. It is worth mentioning here that in the wake of the growing separatist tendencies and Pakistan's proxy wars in the state, we generally give more emphasis on law and order in the valley, neglecting in the process the pathetic governance of the state for decades. Everybody tends to talk of only the Kashmir valley, giving an impression that Jammu and Ladakh simply do not exist. So much so that now the dictum is that no person from Jammu and Ladakh could ever become Chief Minister of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. As a result, a Chief Minister, who is solely dependent upon the Kashmiri vote bank alone for gaining and retaining power, is bound to cultivate the Kashmiri electorate by all sorts of administrative measures and do more and more for the valley. A policy of regional discrimination has thus emerged. There are grave regional imbalances. Jammu and Ladakh are very poorly represented in the state bureaucracy and other jobs. All the major industrial units such as HMT watch factory, the telephone factory, the television factory and cement factory are in the valley, even though the valley is not at all suitable as every kind of raw material needed come either from or through the Jammu region. And the matter has become so perverse that no central scheme in Jammu can ever be allowed if a similar scheme is not replicated in the valley. For instance, the state of Jammu and Kashmir has two central universities, two AIIMS, two IIT-like institutions, something other states in the country can never dream of. Every Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir demands crores and crores of rupees from the Centre, but he is highly sensitive when matter of accountability of how the money provided by the Centre is being spent. Is it being spent equitably all over the state or getting concentrated in the valley? No chief minister will like to provide a clear answer. It may be noted, and I am quoting former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah here, 'if there is a government at the Centre which is unfriendly towards J&K, the state would be in deep trouble' financially. More than 60 per cent of the state's revenue comes from the Central government. A Reserve Bank of India study in 2010 says that in J&K, the annual per capita spending by the Central government is about Rs 20 lakh! In fact, a Kashmiri gets about eight times more money from the Centre than citizens from other states. And yet, spending on the social sector in J&K - schools, health, rural development etc -is surprisingly low at about 30% of aggregate expenditure. That is the fourth lowest proportion among all states, the RBI-study said. So where is all the money going if it is not reaching the ordinary people of the state? Ironically, it may be mentioned here that in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, the state government spends cores of rupee on these anti-India 'political activists', including the separatists. State government bears all the hotels, security bills of Hurriyat and other political leaders if these leaders will meet Pakistani High commissioner in New Delhi, the expenditure will be added to State's account. According to some press reports, Jammu and Kashmir government spends more than Rs 100 crore on the security of these leaders every year. Data provided by the state government suggests that in between 2010-15, a total of Rs 21 crore was spent (Rs 4 crore per-annum) on the hotel and Rs 26.43 crore on fuel expenditure of the Hurriyat leaders. Since 2010-11, the state has spent Rs 309 crore on the salary of guards and Rs 150 crore on the salary of PSOs who provide security to these leaders. Viewed thus, one must salute the late Mufti Sahib that he had the required vision to lead the PDP-BJP coalition. The coalition represented all regions of the state. Here was perhaps the best opportunity in recent decades that there was a government in the state which every ethnic community- Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists - could consider its own. Secondly, his was a government that the BJP-led central government, which will be there till 2019 whatever the Modi-bashers may say, was bound to help, both politically and financially. A stable government plans to fulfill all is promises over a period of four to five years. It cannot be judged over just 10 months that late Mufti was in office. In sum, Mehbooba must be clear in her mind. Does she want to be the Chief Minister of the state of Jammu and Kashmir or of the Kashmir valley? Her father, the visionary and nationalist that he was, thought of the whole state. It will be a sad day if Mehbooba reduces herself to be the leader of the Kashmir valley and invites sheer political chaos into a state that it can ill afford.