There is no guarantee that a future election in Jammu and Kashmir will not result in another hung assembly.
Homeminister Rajnath Singh Thursday tried distancing the Bharatiya Janata Party from Jammu and Kashmir Governor Satya Pal Malik’s decision to dissolve the assembly. The question to ask is: did the governor exhaust all the options before deciding to unilaterally dissolve the House?
His sudden and surprising move, paving way for fresh elections, has generated hectic political activity and even more accusations and counter-allegations.
Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) leader and former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti alleged that her letter to the governor staking claim to form the government, sent via fax, was never acknowledged by his office.
The governor, in turn, said that his office was closed due to Eid festivities. It is surprising then that the same office sprung to life and sent out an official communication on dissolution of the Jammu and Kashmir assembly.
Then and now
After the BJP withdrew support to the PDP in June, it brought an end to a three-year alliance between two “divergent political ideologies”. The BJP had then abruptly said that it had become “untenable” for the party to continue its alliance with the PDP.
Following the BJP’s move, Mehbooba Mufti tendered her resignation as the chief minister of the state. Soon after, the BJP cited rise in terrorism, violence, killing of journalist Shujaat Bukhari and increasing radicalisation as reasons behind its decision to withdraw its support to the PDP, practically admitting that the coalition government had failed to stop terrorism or improve the law and order situation.
Elaborating on the reasons to form a coalition with the PDP, a senior BJP leader had said, “We had to respect the mandate of the people. If we would not have formed the government at that time, governor’s rule or Presidential rule would have been imposed in the valley. We had an alliance with them just for the mandate that was given by the people”.
Ironically, five months later and with no change in the number of the seats held by all the political parties, the governor did not find it necessary to explore the possibility of respecting the mandate given by the people.
If not the governor, at least the Centre (read BJP) could have ‘advised’ or ‘suggested’ the governor to explore the possibilities of putting in place a government that respects the people’s mandate.
When the PDP claimed the support of the National Conference (NC) and the Congress, 56 MLAs in 87-member House, the least the governor could have done is to give them a chance to prove their claim on the floor of the House. A triple alliance would have anyway collapsed under the weight of its own contradictions.
The governor instead chose to dissolve the House and cited the “impossibility of forming a stable government by a coalition by the coming together of political parties with opposing political ideologies”. He probably overlooked that fact that before him, his predecessor did not find it strange for two parties, the BJP and the PDP, with “opposing political ideologies” forming a coalition government and running it for three years.
He also cited the “fragile security scenario in the state” and the “need to have a stable and supportive environment for security forces” (through a strong and stable government). There can be no disagreement with the governor’s views that a strong and stable government is the need of the hour in a sensitive state like Jammu and Kashmir.
Speaking to the media shortly after dissolving the assembly, governor Satya Pal Malik claimed that he didn’t receive PDP leader Mehbooba Mufti’s fax as his office was closed for Eid. So, without receiving any communication from either the PDP or the NC, how did he conclude that there can be no coalition between parties with opposing ideologies?
A lost opportunity
It is sad that politics has stooped to a level where a governor’s decision, which is expected to unbiased, has to be openly contested in public. The governor has every right under the Constitution to take an appropriate decision in a given situation, like the one that prevails in Jammu and Kashmir.
His decision to dissolve the assembly and pave the way for fresh election also cannot be questioned, nor could it be quashed by the court, if challenged. But the larger point here is if the governor exhausted all the options before he took the call to dissolve the assembly.
One can definitely argue that the coming together of the PDP, the NC and the Congress was forced by political exigency than ideological camaraderie; the governor could have opted for an out-of-the-box solution.
He could have called not just these three parties, but other major political players in the state as well and suggested the formation of an administrative committee comprising representatives of all parties. Such a committee, with members from the PDP, the BJP, the NC and the Congress, under the chairmanship of the governor would have been truly representative of the people’s mandate. It could have overseen the various aspects of governance.
Fractured mandate is a part and parcel of a vibrant democracy such as ours. There is no guarantee that a future election in Jammu and Kashmir will not result in another hung assembly. So, how long are we going to keep blaming coalitions? It is time to evolve consensus on issues of governance among the political parties. Jammu and Kashmir provided one such opportunity, which we have just missed.
The author is former editor of RSS journal Organiser.