DOST KHAN / ANCHOR
More than celebrations, it is time for introspection for Farooq Abdullah, Member Parliament elect. Competitive separatism might have won him bypolls to sit in Lok Sabha for less than two years but road ahead is quite thorny. He has two options. One, to continue playing to the galleries and pursuing pro-separatist agenda and, another, to redeem himself as a nationalist and secular leader he was. But given the high stakes of 2020 general elections to Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Assembly and also general elections to Lok Sabha in 2019, he will be tempted to choose the first option, because it has earned him a seat as a saving grace for his National Conference.
Ironically, the subdued triumph comes to National Conference by emulating arch-rivals Peoples Democratic Party. Inspired by bête noire Mufti Mohammed Sayeed’s pro-militant policy, Farooq Abdullah also threw his weight behind Hurriyat Conference and begged of Jamaat-e-Islami to bail him out in the crucial elections on the premise of ‘throwing out’ RSS from Kashmir and fighting the ‘threat to religion’ by fascist forces. It must be a coincidence that like Mufti, who expressed his gratitude to separatists, terrorists and Pakistan for facilitating smooth elections on the very first day of taking over as Chief Minister, Farooq Abdullah too repaid his debt to Hurriyat, soon after his victory, by asking New Delhi to talk to them. In the process, he undermined his own representative character before a bunch of lackeys aided and abetted by Pakistan.
Pursuing pro-separatist and Kashmir centric politics is bound to repeat the 2014 experience wherein Mufti Mohammed Sayeed was forced to align with the BJP. The Mufti did not align with the BJP to placate the Centre just for getting glued to power but he wanted to take Jammu along that had no representation from Congress, which would have served as an ideal partner for the PDP like in 2002.
Had he been power hungry, he could have explored other options also, given the unconditional support of National Conference. But Mufti Sayeed was a real visionary. He could comprehend the consequences of isolating Jammu. This was perhaps the last thing that his core constituency had expected. His supporters had seen him as the voice from Kashmir, which could take on India. He had cultivated his support base by being at the other side of fence and, therefore, aligning with BJP was anti-climax.
The rise and fall of the PDP has many lessons for the National Conference. It may gain electorally in Kashmir by siding with separatists, espousing the cause of terrorists, glamourising stone-pelters, questioning Jammu and Kashmir’s accession with the Indian domain, describing Kashmir as a separate nation, becoming mouthpiece for the Hurriyat, bashing India and Indian symbols but it will eventually lose it sheen.
National Conference might succeed in inciting passions in Muslim dominated areas of the Jammu province and get a couple of seats but the cost will be losing ground in Hindu or Hindi belt, which has put in its lap two important Assembly seats in the midst of Narendra Modi tsunami. Rise of ‘communal and soft-separatist’ National Conference will shrink the space of pseudo secular Congress, which is already in the state of wilderness.
As a consequence, the BJP will gain again despite its utter failure as a partner in the Jammu and Kashmir Government. A pro-separatist Kashmir centric party is a ticket for success of the BJP.
Also, by playing to the galleries, National Conference will be heightening the expectations of anti-India elements in the Valley like the PDP. Being soft towards anti-national elements is like riding a tiger that can throw its rider in the marshy Kashmir turf. And, at the end of the day, the pro-separatist or soft secessionist National Conference will have to make the compromises by aligning with the forces it is demonising now and meet the fate of the PDP. Farooq Abdullah must also realise that playing to the galleries did not impress the voters in Kashmir, who starved the polling stations on poll-day.
There were just four per cent (of the seven per cent votes polled) takers to his soft-separatist stance in the Valley. It is not a rosy reception to his new sojourn.
By treading the path it walked during its brief campaigning during the Srinagar bypolls, National Conference may keep the pot boiling in Kashmir. Farooq Abdullah will have to introspect.
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