PAGD to fight the polls together – trial balloon or reality
The PAGD has taken the first step in its strategy ahead of the highly anticipated Assembly polls in Jammu and Kashmir, although no one knows when this democratic exercise will appear on the calendar this year or next. There are two prominent figures in the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration, its President Farooq Abdullah and Vice President Mehbooba Mufti, who also lead their parties – the National Conference and the PDP. Both have expressed their wish to stand for election jointly.
If what Farooq and Mehbooba said turns out to be true in real terms, it will be something of a political miracle of the Kashmir landscape riddled in the past by unrestrained campaigning against each other. These irritants still guide the inner circles of the two parties, which had 43 seats in the last Legislative Assembly, elected in December 2014, dissolved in November 2018. Conciliation under the great banner of the PAGD, insist the two parties, is for a greater objective. wide to reclaim the special status of Jammu and Kashmir which was abolished on August 5, 2019. Unity in the elections sounds good to the ears of all who want Kashmiri Muslims to vote en bloc for PAGD. It’s more symbolism than anything concrete in terms of restoring special status. The outcome of the elections, as they are held, will not change the constitutional status of J&K which was changed three years ago, but the participation of like-minded parties committed to the cause of restoring section 370 fighting polls as a PAGD, it would be a great message to people in the Valley and beyond. And the most important of these would be that the idea of special status is alive and dynamic. Even when it is known that the Legislative Assembly elected in the Union Territory will not even be a part of its powers that the former State Legislative Assembly had – the State Legislative Assembly had the power to make its own laws and no central law could be extended to J&K without its approval – the number of votes garnered by the Alliance would reflect the prevailing political developments in Kashmir. The Valley has 47 seats in the proposed Assembly of 90, with the rest of the 43 coming from Jammu, but the voting pattern in Kashmir will matter more than in the other region. It is an established political reality. It has not changed despite the delimitation commission giving six more seats to Jammu against only one to the Valley. Firstly, of course, because the valley is almost entirely Muslim, and secondly, it represents political philosophy with its own regional identity, as well as, paradoxically, accepting and resisting certain influences. Pakistan would not want elections to take place in Kashmir, it would mobilize, as it has done in the past, elements that support it, to generate a wave of election boycotts, but that is doomed to failure. The people, suffocated by the strangulation of bureaucratic power, want to have a political government that is accessible to them and accountable to them. They are more eager than ever to participate in the polls. It is a reality, Kashmir has reserves of ropes. About parties other than their regional outfits. They love their regional identity more than anything else. They are not very convinced of the theories and promises of groups like the Congress and the AAP which do not have a clear position on Kashmir, while with regard to the BJP, they harbor real and imaginary fears, but they are resentful of the actions taken by the BJP government which abolished Article 370 and brought in laws and initiated measures which they say undermined their identity.
Farooq Abdullah, who heads the PAGD, claimed that “the Alliance of Like-Minded Parties will conduct the elections jointly”, and he said that every detail of the seat adjustment would only be undertaken after the announcement elections. His response to questions about whether the situation is good enough to hold elections is: “If they could hold elections during the devastating floods of 2014, why can’t they be held now? The Kashmir Valley was hit by massive floods in the last century in 2014, and the National Conference had called for the postponement of the elections, but the Election Commission of India ruled out this possibility; he held the elections in November-December even when the people were reeling from the devastation
PDP President Mehbooba Mufti is a strong supporter of united struggle in the polls. “This is a fight for our dignity and honor, we cannot compromise on that. The political differences are minimal in the context of the larger objective at stake.”
All of this is much easier said than done. The real test would be for the alliance to push back against the allegations launched by the BJP and some other parties that they were responsible for the miseries inflicted on the masses during their 70-year rule. The BJP wants to establish itself as a party that has brought about fundamental changes in governance and brought justice to the people. That’s less than three years (since the repeal of Section 370 in August 2019) versus 70 narrative years. But Kashmir has its own opinions, and it would show in the reaction the PAGD would get for its announcement of a joint fight against the polls. This will determine the course. From now on, PAGD launched a trial balloon to spark a debate in the Valley to see how the rivals would react and reveal their strategies.