Three decades of violence has wreaked havoc in the lives of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. Despite all that, they have managed to retain a sense of corrosive humour in dealing with powers that be. Aliases are foisted on netas. Foibles are crunched to monikers - some complimentary. Some not so complimentary. Some very un-complimentary.
Unlike others from his generation, the electorate was a little more generous on Ghulam Mohammad Shah. ‘Gul-shah’ as he was called defected from the National Conference in the eighties to float his own party. He went on to topple his brother in law Farooq Abdullah to Chief Minister’s chair in Srinagar.
The overnight coup in Kashmir took everyone by surprise and was largely seen as Delhi trying to hoist a pliable and ambitious leader at the helm.
Contemporary political history of Jammu and Kashmir post-Independence is replete with such instances.
November 21, 2018, however, proved to be a little different as two regional parties with a little help from the Congress were able to turn the tables on Raj Bhavan and forced the Governor’s hand to dissolve the state assembly.
For Mehbooba Mufti’s People’s Democratic Party, staring at defections that was the best possible scenario in the current situation.
It was hard for her to go back to the people who had handed her a mandate for an entirely different purpose. Her inability to face the electorate in her pocket-borough in the long pending Anantnag Lok Sabha by-polls was apparent. PDP wanted time and an issue to redeem. And an opportunity to tide over the growing rebellion. These objectives to some extent are met.
The National Conference since the fall of PDP-BJP coalition has been demanding a fresh election. They have played their part by showing their intent to sacrifice and concede even to arch-rival PDP to keep the BJP at bay. That purpose served, the party can re-focus of election preparations.
The biggest give away in the entire drama was Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad’s statement on Wednesday afternoon. The former CM was busy campaigning in poll-bound Jaipur when government formation was being discussed in Srinagar!
On being asked to comment on the developments in Kashmir, Azad made a cryptic statement that only discussions were going on at this stage.
What perhaps added as the catalyst in this political drama was BJP’s reported bid to hoist People’s Conference leader Sajad Lone as chief minister and leader of a third front before the expiry of Governor’s Rule in December. An alternative front, which could be an alternative to both PDP and the NC in the valley?
Interestingly in all these talks of government formation, no letter of support was given or taken. No supporting party called or made an attempt to call on the Governor.
Reports were planted about PDP chief’s scheduled thanks giving meeting with Congress leadership in Delhi.
The baraat was ready- with all the band-baaja. The groom - CM candidate - was dolled up in all the finery.
The fax machine in Governor Malik’s office developed a snag. Fortunately, internet connection in the Valley was up and working. So leaders sought to make a giant digital leap to connect with the Raj Bhawan. PDP claimed THE support of 56 MLAs.
A Congress-NC-PDP coalition would have perhaps have collapsed under the burden of its own contradictions before the next general elections. It perhaps may have given BJP a chance to gain some lost ground in Jammu.
But in Governor Malik’s assessment that would have been an ‘unholy’ alliance. So he recommended dissolution of the assembly.
PDP-Congress-NC leaders thanked each other for support offered. In their hearts perhaps they thanked Governor Malik more than they did one another.
And laughed their way to bed.