Home Minister Amit Shah’s new interesting term for Mehbooba Mufti, Farooq Abdullah and other politicians’ alliance — the “Gupkar gang” — shows that the Bharatiya Janata Party’s Kashmir chessboard might be looking different than planned.
In a series of tweets this week, Shah called the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) — or the Gupkar Alliance — of the National Conference (NC), Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), People’s Conference (PC), Communist Party (CPI-M), Awami National Conference (ANC) and the reluctant Congress a “gang”, accusing it of hobnobbing with foreign players. It raised many eyebrows in the erstwhile state. Omar Abdullah’s response to the home minister was as blunt as the charge. He said he “understands Shah’s frustration because the PAGD decision to contest the forthcoming District Development Council (DDC) election hadn’t gone down well with the BJP”. Mehbooba Mufti reacted by saying that the “gang” remark was “an attempt to divert people’s attention from rising unemployment and inflation in the country”.
So, what is behind this curious turn of events in Jammu and Kashmir? And why is the BJP suddenly so furious about the Gupkar Alliance’s decision to contest elections?
Also read: Fissures continue to deepen in Gupkar alliance as parties differ on district council polls
A turn of events
Jammu and Kashmir has, again this year, got into an early snowy and chilly winter. There still hangs an atmosphere of unacceptance, disbelief and reluctance to engage with new realities, and the people of Jammu and Kashmir have remained largely detached from the political turn of events. From a psychological prism, the detachment seems to be rooted in a belief that sees any re-engagement as inconsequential. Despite this backdrop, the Gupkar Alliance’s decision to contest elections has galvanised the political grassroots in J&K, and Srinagar’s Gupkar Road is increasingly becoming the centre of politics in the post-5 August 2019 era.
Amit Shah’s statement seemed to go too far, looked innately bitter and, most likely, was motivated by the Gupkar Alliance’s decision to contest the elections it had earlier considered boycotting.
Interestingly, close on the heels of this Twitter war of words, Gupkar Alliance patron Farooq Abdullah and former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah announced their self-isolation due to Covid concerns. Still more interestingly, the Jammu & Kashmir High Court, in an unexpected move, directed the J&K administration to release former Hurriyat leader Masarat Alam from a long detention, “if he was not required in any case.”
In the middle of all this, the Gupkar Alliance’s decision to foray into the DDC election fray seems to have disrupted the political chessboard in J&K.
The Centre’s decision to hold the first DDC elections, informed sources in these parties tell me, was guided by a strong belief among BJP decision-makers that the PAGD would not participate in the elections.
Through their various interactions with the key players of the Gupkar Alliance, both the J&K administration and senior central government figures probably thought that the parties involved would not participate in any election until their core demands and concerns regarding the newly-introduced laws on J&K were met.
So, did the BJP commit a gaffe in reading the mind of the alliance?
Also read: Gupkar Alliance to contest local body elections, the first polls in J&K since it become a UT
A change of plan
Given the grassroots political mobilisation among the constituents of the Alliance, especially the enthusiasm among the second, third line and grassroots workers today, it is very likely that the Alliance will sweep the DDC elections in J&K. However, the BJP, probably isn’t foreseeing such a good prospect for itself.
Faced with the mammoth electoral strength of the Gupkar Alliance in Kashmir, the BJP isn’t as comfortably placed as it was in Jammu. A united Gupkar Alliance is likely to win DDC elections in most of the Chenab and Pirpanjal sub-regions. In the Jammu plains, even if the BJP retains a significant advantage, given the people’s deep unease with the big changes in land, job, business and internet access laws and rules, things may not be as easy as it was in 2016.
So, did the Gupkar Alliance checkmate the BJP?
Most probably, yes. If one were to go by the sequence and substance of the drastic changes in J&K’s erstwhile laws and the electoral architecture, from village panchayat to assembly level, it appears that the ruling party had expected to reap big electoral dividends from the new system. It also seems to have anticipated a political landscape devoid of any competitors.
Gupkar Alliance members privately mince no words. They say that one of the objectives of the sweeping changes made in the architecture of the local governance in J&K after 5 August last year, was to make the Member Legislative Assembly (MLA) position almost redundant in J&K. Political experts also say that even if J&K’s statehood was restored in the future, the decentralisation of powers to panchayats and the District Development Councils would make the institutions of the MLA and the legislative assembly almost inconsequential to the democratic political system of J&K.
If the Gupkar Alliance establishes a good presence at the DDC level now, it would easily be able to re-establish its presence at the panchayat level. Imagining the future political landscape from there should not be difficult. It is almost certain that even if the delimitation exercise of the electoral constituencies results in an electoral disadvantage for the Alliance, it will contest the assembly elections too.
Also read: ‘Gupkar Gang’ an ‘unholy global gathbandhan’ against national interest, says Amit Shah
An uncertain course
Most observers in J&K today say that if a credible democratic project isn’t allowed to democratically re-shape the region into an inclusive and stable polity, the political vacuum would be hard to manage. Besides the concerns about perpetual political instability in Jammu and Kashmir today, the erstwhile state’s rapid slide into poverty, business bankruptcies, land dispossession, and growing financial indebtedness are not good signs at all.
Any decent democracy, at the end of the day, cannot flourish if there is no level-playing field for its myriad political actors to peacefully and democratically engage with the people. Any stable and prosperous economic system requires a stable polity deriving its power, legitimacy and mandate from the people it represents.
Jammu and Kashmir today presents a picture of a landscape in chaos. Too many gaffes with its shape and spirit, right from the 5 August decision, has put this erstwhile state on a very uneasy and uncertain course. Still reeling from the shock of the tectonic changes made to its structure and spirit, the last thing that J&K needs is a bulldozer brand of politics that seeks to establish only one kind of political view and belief. The sooner the pitfalls of that approach are understood the better.
The writer is author of ‘Omar Abdullah: The Burdens of Inheritance‘. Views are personal.
authors hindu phobia is blocking natural common sense, gupkar alliance has 11 MLAS jumping to bjp last week also shows kashmir doesnt need islamization, kashmir wants development, and kashmir will accomodate indias landless farmers today or tomorrow,
this article is bonkers to say the least
One thing one must not do – read statements of politicians as writing on wall. Applies to Amit Shah and PAGD gang.
Amit Shah did what politician does, attribute adjectives to adversaries in a way his constituency understands. Adversary gave importance to adjectives and game started.
Rest people will decide. This author seems to be a piece of……….. spinning yarn much out of nothing
The jihadi wahabi backbone of these mawali maskins are well known.
There is no room for secessionist and fundamentalism ideology and should be made pariah.
There is blood of Kashmiri Hindus in each one of these mawali maskins and trial should be started or better use sharia to chop of their heads legs or whatever so the generation of mawali maskin jihadi and wahabi are taught a lesson they cannot forget.
Fomenting trouble in Kashmir is important to BJP brand of Hindutva. More humiliation of kashmiris will only help in consolidating the national vote for next national elections and intermediate elections like in UP. Sadly Kashmir is in for darker days ahead.
I don’t know why so many bjp members come to read print seeing the comments. They know the print is a left media . Go read right wing media don’t come here .
If you have seen Shekhar Gupta’s latest Cut the Clutter on Shri Rahul Gandhi, you would not be asking this question. BJP, and by extension its supporters, take Congress seriously. They are not contemptuous of their opposition like the leftists, the self certified liberals and the selective secularists are. So they engage with them to understand their mind so that they can defeat them. You can see the results of this hard work both in the political scene as well as in the comments section here. Much against the expectations of the entitled elites, the so called bhakts are able to read and write that much English so as to get their message across. Please get used to the new normal. Sarcasm will not help you.
Congress party will pay a heavy price for alliance with the Gupkar gang in other states.
Mr Amit Shah may be wrong, but one thing is clear. All these members of this unholy amalgam called Gupkar not Hindus, except some communists, who are always anti Hinduism. Moreover none of these consider themselves as Indians in true sense. They take the oath of constitution just as formality. None of them ever questioned Pakistan over it’s illegal occupation of PoK. For them Pakistan is an alley. Anyhow BJP has never been present in the Valley. If these so-called Gupkar group is sincere in its demands, than their first priority should be the resettlement of Kashmiri Hindus in the valley and condemning of terrorists. Moreover in the oath paper a clause should be inserted for the contestants to condemn the Pakistani sponsored terrorism. And further all the family members of the terrorists should neither be allowed to contest elections nor be allowed to cast votes.
It does not matter if amit shah has mis read the situation. but this gupkar group should now realize that J&K is an INTERGRAL part of India and there is NO GOING BACK on Article 370 and 35A. As long as they understand that there is no problem.
Yeah, Amit Shah is running scared from You. Happy?
According to ideologues masquerading as journalists, BJP has been thrown off guard since 2014. This rant is more of the same.
Where do you get your Political wisdom from. Do you think 370 was about winning Kashmir politically. It’s about consolidating the entire India political narrative and landscape. More they will say that they want to bring back 370 , better for BJP and India patriots. Kahan se padhe ho bhai.
Well said. This is a bs article and similar article was written during bihar election and the result was opposite.
The writer seems to carry on his work of creating something special of nothing. Actually, by contesting election PAGD have recognized the rule of laand.
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