Jammu and Kashmir Congress is in real dilemma over implementation of Goods and Services Tax (GST). First they owned up the new tax regime, terming it as their dream concept, and then they started faltering. Initially, a serious effort was made by the party to take credit for the unprecedented tax reform but the fear of annoying radicalised constituency in Kashmir and National Conference, the Congress shamelessly retracted back.
On 16th June, 2017, the Congress legislators’ vowed in Srinagar to fight against any misadventure on introducing GST, which could undermine the fiscal and political autonomy of Jammu and Kashmir. Unfortunately, the Congress does not have any MLA from Hindu heartland and its erstwhile strong-base of Jammu after the 2014 elections. Therefore, the Congress, in a way, spoke the language of National Conference with which it is in unannounced alliance. The statement thus reflected the Kashmir point of view, ignoring the Jammu aspirations, especially as trade, commerce and industry in this region has unequivocally threatened to launch a stir if the new tax regime is not implemented in the State.
Fearing backlash of its core constituency, some insignificant leaders from Jammu made the Pradesh Congress leaders to review the decision of opposing the GST. They did but with an embargo that, “The responsibility lies on the coalition government (of PDP-BJP) to implement the GST as per the modes (including Ordinance) provided in the Constitution in tune with Article 370, for which the State government is fully qualified and has ample powers”.
Has Jammu Congress allowed itself to remain a caged mouse of its Kashmir centric masters? The answer is unfortunately in affirmative. Without espousing the cause and urges of the Jammu region, the Congressmen are playing to the tunes of National Conference and its Kashmir based leaders who subscribe to the anthem of Article 370 and the ‘autonomy’.
While Kashmir Congress is vociferous in ensuring safeguards to the so-called autonomy and Article 370, the Jammu second-fiddlers are meek in their response. In the process, the party is making U-turns after intermittent intervals, much to the annoyance and discomfort of the Jammu people. Sensing the mood in Jammu, its leadership here had attempted to assert itself but the slavery syndrome forced them to sing differently.
What are the stakes of the Congress in Kashmir? Obviously none except clinching a few seats! But driven by appeasement of a particular community and vote bank politics, the Jammu Congress has willingly and voluntarily agreed to be subservient. They can’t go beyond the wishes and whims of their Kashmiri mentors and masters, which is why that they keep on harping about autonomy while seeking ‘One Nation One Tax’. This is bizarre. Firstly, the Congress leaders of Jammu have not taken a conscious stand on the GST for the fear of annoying Kashmiri leaders and secondly, they have failed in galvanizing on this important issue in its stronghold. The level of frustration and confusion can be gauged by the fact that its State level functionary and a legislator has blamed the BJP of playing second fiddle to PDP by not pushing the implementation of the GST. Isn’t it a huge contradiction? What the Congress leaders are conveying to their ‘once upon’ support base. They are giving confusing signals that have distanced them further from the people of Jammu, who are vying for a political voice that could express their urges and aspirations. The Congress has surrendered whatever little self-esteem it had to their Kashmiri masters, which is why the party is now a persona non-grata in the Jammu region.
The GST issue had provided a much needed hammer to the Congress to beat its arch rival BJP but inherent cowardice in the Jammu leadership and Kashmiri dominance syndrome has again made them to miss the bus. Now the Congressmen have no recourse but to remain in the political wilderness that has become their destiny, now and forever, at least in the Duggarland.
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© 2017 State Times Daily Newspaper