Following the fall of the Mehbooba Mufti government in Jammu and Kashmir last month, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has been quietly examining various options to form the government in the state, although nothing concrete has come out so far.
However, political analysts fear that any attempts by the BJP to form the government, with a breakaway faction of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), will trigger more resentment and unrest in the Valley, which is already reeling under intense volatility.
A split in the PDP to form a third front, which could either align with the National Conference-Congress coalition or the BJP, would be seen as another intervention by New Delhi to rule the state by engineering ‘defections’. The alliance, particularly with the BJP, would be seen by the people as another attempt that a ruling party at the Centre was turning to ‘horse trading’ to form the government. The resentment will get intensified as all political parties including NC, PDP and Congress fought elections on the plank that they will keep BJP out of power.
Former chief ministers, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and Mehbooba Mufti, had come under scathing attack for forming a coalition with the BJP. Before Mehbooba supported BJP, she had admitted that it was an "unpopular" alliance. After the BJP withdrew support to Mehbooba on 19 June forcing the imposition of Governor’s Rule in the state, hectic lobbying is on to form a government in the state.
Political commentator, Noor Ahmad Baba, said, “The electoral manoeuvring by BJP will trigger resentment among people. The people were not happy with the previous alliance of PDP and BJP and they won't be happy with any defections and electoral fraud.”
Previously, it was the Congress which was seen as the one to be engineering defections in Kashmir. It even dismissed the elected governments to rule the troubled state. The NC contested the 1951 elections in the state and won all the Assembly seats uncontested, except for the two seats on which Opposition parties put up candidates. However, it was only two years later, in 1953, that former prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru got NC founder and then prime minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Sheikh Abdullah detained on charges of espionage and he was dismissed from the government. The charges against him were dropped in 1964.
Noted historian, Farooq Fayaz said, "As far as relations between NC and Congress were concerned there were dissimilarities in their agendas. The Naya Kashmir agenda was the political draft for an independent and autonomous country by the NC. At the Centre, Indian National Congress was fighting for emancipation from British rule and in the same way people of Kashmir were fighting for their rights against the autocratic Dogras. But the post-partition landscape in India and the emergence of right-wing ideology forced the ouster of Sheikh Abdullah.”
After the subsequent jail terms for Sheikh ended, he started the Plebiscite Front, which sought a referendum in Kashmir — a similar stance which is now espoused by separatists — and the Congress managed to merge the NC with it to stay in power in Jammu and Kashmir. It was under the leadership of GM Sadiq that NC merged into Congress and the party ruled the state from 1965 to 1975.
However, in 1975, after former prime minister Indira Gandhi signed an accord with Sheikh Abdullah — which was known as the Indira-Sheikh accord — Syed Mir Qasim, the Congress chief minister since 1972, resigned from his position to make way for Sheikh Abdullah. However, the Congress party withdrew the support that it had offered to Sheikh Abullah only two years later in 1977.
Fayaz said that Sheikh Abdullah was brought back to power only to disband the Plebiscite Front.
"Sheikh revived the NC after the Plebiscite Front was disbanded. But he was a chief minister of the Congress MLAs. None represented NC in the Assembly and Sheikh Abdullah was himself not an MLA. Subsequently, NC was used as a tool and the support was withdrawn to Sheikh Abdullah which necessitated elections in the state," the political analyst said.
In the subsequent mid-term elections, NC won 47 seats in the Assembly under Sheikh Abdullah. However, after his death in 1982, Sheikh Abdullah's son, Farooq Abdullah, became the chief minister of the state. But he also could last only two years in power as the Congress party engineered defections in the NC and Farooq’s brother-in-law, GM Shah joined hands with it to form the government. That had lead to the dismissal of Farooq from office.
"The defections in the NC was also part of a ploy to use the regional party as a mere tool. A democratically elected government was removed and it was an attempt to erode the special constitutional position of the state,” said Fayaz. He added that withdrawal of support by BJP to PDP is to "use regional political parties as only as an apparatus to enforce the Unionist agenda on the ground".
However after Shah assumed office, only two years later he was also dismissed and Farooq returned as the chief minister in 1987 in the wake of another accord with former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, which was known as Rajiv-Farooq accord. Subsequently, the two parties fought the elections together in 1987 and the government lasted for three years before the militancy erupted in Kashmir. During the 1987 elections after the Congress-NC accord in Jammu and Kashmir, the Muslim United Front (MUF) fielded many candidates against the alliance. Due to electoral malpractices, the MUF supporters crossed the border, which was also one of the contributing factors for the rising militancy in Jammu and Kashmir. However, after 1990 the state was placed under Governor's Rule which extended until the 1996 elections when the NC won 57 Assembly seats. However, it was widely believed that the polls were held under coercion of the government forces.