As the assembly elections in the state are speculated to be held simultaneously with parliamentary elections in April/May, a new political formation is likely to take place in Kashmir. Several political individuals from different parties are trying to get together to form the new political front as an alternative to the National Conference and Peoples’ Democratic Party—two premier parties in the valley. Though it is yet to take a formal shape but reports suggest that efforts in this regard are nearing the final stage.
Sajjad Lone, Gh Hasan Mir, Altaf Bukhari, Hakeem Yaseen, Yousuf Tarigami, Rasheed Engineer and several other politicians and former MLAs who yield some sort of influence in their respective constituencies are reported to be the part of this front. It would be quite premature to comment on the success or failure of the newly imagined front but given the present political scenario, Indian political order in Kashmir is facing serious crisis of leadership. It goes without saying that Omar Abdullah and Mahbooba Mufti were projected as future hope for India when they took plunge in politics in 90s but they have bitterly failed.
Omar Abdullah was tested as chief minister of the state between 2009 and 14. This was the most restive period in Kashmir. In 2010, 122 persons were killed and thousands others wounded in three-month long summer revolt. Omar Abdullah failed to arrest the discontent to the level that it was home secretary of India who would issue the curfew and relaxation orders from New Delhi. Despite being the chief minister, Omar Abdullah’s position was not more than an onlooker. Since Mufti Mohammad Sayeed was still around, it was not a complete case of hopelessness for Delhi. In 2014, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed took the leadership role and formed government in a tie-up with the BJP. Though the BJP tried to create problems for Sayeed for its petty party politics but Mufti stature and standing in New Delhi win him through all odds.
After Muftis in on January 7, 2016, pro India political spectrum was exposed to leadership crisis. Delhi’s last hope Mahbooba Mufti was dressed in the role but within a few months Mahbooba proved a liability. If Omar Abdullah was a failure, Mahbooba proved a disaster. In-between, some efforts were made to project and promote Sajjad Lone as the next hope. However, for his limited image and influence restricted mainly to Kupwara district, he could not click the way he was required. Former IAS officer Shah Faesal, who resigned from government service to pursue a political career, proved another political abortion. He failed even before taking formal plunge in politics.
In absence of a face equally acceptable in all parts of the state, the efforts are on to build an alliance of individuals to fill the leadership vacuum. Most of these individual have been drawn from the PDP. If one goes by the reputation and influence of the people likely to be part of the new front, they are mere individuals having no influence beyond their respective constituencies. With PDP losing all its prominent faces, Mahbooba Mufti is virtually in political isolation. Though political requirements do change with time, her isolation cannot be permanent. The National Conference, however, presents a united face. With Farooq Abdullah at its command, and the party’s state-wide influence, it has edge in the elections as and when held. However, the reorganization of the pro Indian political order in the shape of forming an alliance that would be known as third front gives clear indications that National Conference is not a favourite with people who manage Kashmir. There are reports that efforts are on to fracture the peoples’ mandate in Kashmir among groups and individuals of choice to give edge to Jammu in the post-election scenario. How far it would work remains to be seen.