J & K Coalition Government In Trouble

Political equations are changing in Jammu and Kashmir as time for fresh elections is approaching

New Delhi, 9th March, 2007. Political equations are changing in Jammu and Kashmir as time for fresh elections is approaching. The recent conflict between the Congress Party and PDP, a major partner in the coalition indicates that parting of company between the two is likely to happen soon and certainly before the state goes for fresh polls.

The recent differences on the issue of troops reduction in the State between PDP and Congress Party clearly indicate that the two are looking very differently at major issues concerning security in the State. The demand by PDP for troops reduction by India without verifying if the security situation has improved is more in line with the thinking of Pakistan President Gen. Parvez Musharraf and Molvi Umar Farooq of Hurriyat Conference and not with New Delhi.

The PDP has also been extending support to the proposal by Pakistan President for considering self rule as a measure to resolve the Kashmir problem.

This growing closeness in thinking between PDP leadership and moderate wing of Hurriyat Conference and proposals made by Pakistani leadership are certainly a cause for concern in Delhi.

As such it came as no surprise when the PDP leadership felt hurt when Congress President Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh rejected its proposal. The real cause of growing rift between the PDP and Congress is the game of upmanship being played between the PDP and National Conference who consider Kashmir Valley as their own area of influence as majority of their members were elected from that region.

In any future elections also the two parties will be involved in a straight fight for most of the seats in Kashmir valley. The conflict came out in open when PDP adopted slogan of self rule while National Conference pleaded for grant of greater autonomy for the State. The two have also been highlighting the cases relating to human right abuses, though they did little to check them when they were in power.

It is only with Congress Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad in the hot seat that a proper inquiry has started in cases relating to human rights violations and many arrests have also been made. There is no denying the fact that number of people taken away for interrogation by security agencies have subsequently disappeared. If there have been any violations of established norms there is need for proper investigation and punishing the guilty. A start has certainly been made in this direction.

It is known to all that during the last two decades atrocities have been committed in some cases by security forces and in much larger measure by insurgent groups. While the punishment for insurgents is not easy to inflict but all cases relating security agencies are under a scanner. But there is need to take a balanced view and any attempt to destroy the reputation of all men in uniform would neither be justified nor backed up by happenings on the ground.

In the meantime the differences between the two coalition partners are likely to grow as PDP is increasingly feeling that they are losing ground to National Conference. This has been evident in the valley for sometime. The meetings called by National Conference are well attended and they are able to attack PDP leadership for having failed to deliver on their promises.

The PDP is also suffering from dissensions in their ranks which first came to light when they had to withdraw their nominee Mr. Muzzafar Beig who had been made a Deputy Chief Minister. It was believed that PDP leadership was of the view that he was too close to Congress Chief Minister Mr. Azad.

The PDP leadership also has their doubts about the intentions of Mr. Azad who has enjoyed a cozy relationship with Dr. Farooq Abdullah of National Conference and had helped Mr. Azad in getting into Rajya Sabha from Kashmir. One of the reasons why PDP has not walked out of the coalition so far is that they suspect that National Conference will be too willing to occupy the space vacated by them and that could further damage their position.

But even though Congress at the moment is in comfortable position with both major groups inclined to give them support, they have problems as Jammu region from where majority of Congress members were elected.

The region is disappointed with them and there are signs that BJP which had suffered major defeats in the last elections is set to perform better if the elections were held as per scheduled or earlier in case differences between the two coalition partners are not resolved.

In any case one can say with confidence that next few months in Kashmir will witness some major political developments and many new combinations may come up and old ties broken. The Centre will have to keep close watch as any instability in a state like Jammu and Kashmir will have serious consequences. As fight with militants is far from being over and new terrorists groups may emerge to make fresh strikes.

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by Shouvik Mukherjee (few years ago!)

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