(Opinion) PAGD: Forget Article 370, let’s play ball
A cartoon in Srinagar Times summed up the political dilemma of the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD). Our own RK Laxman, Bashir Ahmad Bashir drew a caricature of CPIM leader Mohammad Yousuf Tarigami and added a cheeky narration: “PAGD is one phone call away. Mukaf main 50 % tchoot. Policy main lachak. Guftar main narmi.”
Done and dusted, PAGD is facing an existential crisis. After National Conference (NC) sent feelers to end the boycott of delimitation commission, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) said they have no MP or MLA and therefore cannot participate in the exercise. The question remains had PDP an MP or MLA, would they have participated in the meeting?
For the last many months, PAGD had withdrawn into a shell. There had been no meeting or any policy statement from the alliance. Last week, the conglomerate woke up from long hibernation and met at PDP president Mehbooba Mufti’s residence. The meeting was prompted after rumour mills started churning in Jammu and Kashmir. From downgrading the union territory to giving statehood to Jammu and from severing south Kashmir districts to merging Kashmir with Ladakh, rumour mills gave sleepless nights to the people. It was a déjà vu moment for Kashmiris.
Post-meeting, the once-belligerent leaders were cool like cucumbers. More than talking about special status, they were trying to send `we are ready’ feelers to the Centre. “Doors have not been closed for talks with the Centre. If they invite us, then we will sit and decide,” said Dr. Farooq Abdullah, PAGD chief, and National conference President after the meeting.
The one-liner summed up the dilemma of PAGD. Post their release from detention, PAGD leaders have not been able to touch base. The ground seems to slip beneath their feet. New players are trying to make their presence felt. Old allies are charting their own course of the journey. Except for National Conference and PDP, other parties in PAGD have no postal address.
Peoples Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD), comprise National Conference (NC), Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Awami National Conference, CPIM and Jammu, and Kashmir Peoples Movement. The conglomerate was formed to fight for the restoration of the special status and statehood of Jammu and Kashmir.
NC and Sajad Lone-led Peoples Conference, which parted ways from PAGD after District Development Council (DDC) polls, have filed petitions in the Supreme Court against the Centre’s decision of scrapping Article 370.
Both NC and PDP have been in power at some point in time. Power is like drawing blood. Staying out for a long time is like excruciating pain. Despite political saber-rattling pre and post-abrogation of Article 370, NC continues to take part in the democratic process. Its three MPs including Farooq Abdullah regularly participate in the parliament proceedings. When the entire political leadership was in jail, its two MPs—Justice (retd) Hasnain Masoodi and Mohammad Akbar Lone – were free and they refused to resign. When Farooq was released from detention last year, the first thing he did was to fly to New Delhi and attend parliament.
Power is glue and it binds people. Soon after PDP lost power, leaders started jumping the ship for greener pastures. NC realizes this phenomenon. They can’t stay away for long. The next five years without power will mean the beginning of the end of the party. Ideology cannot be a blank cheque. It too has an expiry date.
Though the new assembly would be a rubberstamp given the clauses in the reorganization bill, yet the financial powers remain with the local government. This highlights the impatience of the political class. They might have been harsh in their statements, yet they are all for Indian democracy. They can go to a particular point in opposing the government, but they cannot cross the Laxman Rekha.
Mainstream leaders in the heart of hearts know that restoring Article 370 will be a big ask. Their litigation is pending in the Supreme Court and the Centre is going ahead with its plans. In such a scenario, the leaders have started feeling the heat. They are ready for discussions with the Centre. They are ready to open channels of communication. They are willing to barter and wait for opportunity.
Power is a dynamic process. It comes and goes. Congress-ruled the country for maximum terms, yet it had to pave way for the BJP. Who knows if tomorrow a friendly government comes to power at the Centre? That time our leaders can bargain. This time they want to settle down for something as a face-saver. Will statehood be a starting point?
Leaders are eager to make a new beginning. If rumors are to be believed, the delimitation exercise will be completed soon and elections may be held next year. Sensing the ground situation, mainstream leaders do not want to miss the opportunity. The intent is there but modalities are to be worked out.
(Author is senior editor at The Kashmir Monitor. Views expressed are personal. Email: [email protected])