Modi’s Political Gamble!

Should Prime Minister Modi’s decision regarding Jammu & Kashmir (JK) be viewed as a major political as well as diplomatic strike? Undeniably, the decision to withdraw support from PDP, impose Governor’s rule in the state, take moves to counter terrorists here and similar measures cannot be de-linked from his electoral campaign. What is more ironical is that these moves are associated with a possible conflict with Pakistan and increase in hard-stance towards Kashmiri Muslims. “News” being circulated is giving great importance to Kashmiri Muslims’ soft approach towards Pakistan. Sadly, a survey indicates that quite a number of Indians are taking these “news” fairly seriously. They seem fairly convinced that a majority of Kashmiri Muslims are inclined towards Pakistan. Little importance is being given to the actual attitude of Kashmiri Muslims (those living in JK).

Over the decades, increasing number of Kashmiri Muslims have given the Indian civil services examinations. Quite a few coaching centres are being run by successful Muslims to promote other Kashmiri Muslims in this venture. There are reports of their moving to other parts of India for higher education, jobs and also promote their businesses. These are just a few indicators. Statistically, there are no reports of Kashmiri Muslims choosing to cross the border for similar purposes. Yes, reports of a minor percentage being influenced by terrorism and taking to militancy cannot be ignored. However, infiltration from across the border of militants too cannot be ignored. Also, the summer season is the period when this reportedly increases every year. From what angle are Kashmiri Muslims to be blamed for the increase in militancy in the state?

Nevertheless, BJP is confident that making noise about JK and blaming PDP as well as Pakistan will give a major boost to its electoral campaign. Not surprisingly, BJP leader Amit Shah has not shied away from blaming PDP from showing a “soft” approach towards separatists and discriminatory towards Jammu and Ladakh. Irrespective of whatever be former chief minister Ms Mehbooba Mufti (PDP)’s reaction towards these charges, it is clear that BJP is trying its hand at its old tactic, which is communal polarisation of vote-banks along religious lines. BJP is, at present, probably least concerned of whether this strategy will be of any use in the development of JK and the people there. The party is also not bothered about its possible impact on regional politics as well as diplomacy and image of India across the world. The party’s primary motive apparently is to convince the rest of the country about its agenda.

Undeniably, this electoral path taken by BJP has pushed rival parties into a tight spot. It is practically impossible for them to question BJP’s stand towards terrorism, Pakistan and unfortunately also Kashmiri Muslims. So, from this angle, would it be fair to assume that BJP has exercised an extremely clever move on JK-front, which may help it win the elections and leave rival parties biting their nails? There is yet another angle to this. It is possible, the impact of this move may be confined to JK and some sections of right-wing elements associated with the saffron brigade.

Anti-Pak fervour was earlier used fairly aggressively by most political parties. Over the years, however, it has ceased to have the electoral and also political importance that it earlier had. The situation is roughly the same at present. Undeniably, tacit promotion of anti-Pak drive has been marked by a decline in Indo-Pak cultural exchanges, participation of Pakistani poets in Indian mushairas and so forth. However, these activities had limited impact on the electoral attitude of Indian voters earlier and the same may be said about it at present. So it is possible, the “master-stroke” exercised by Modi and his political colleagues may not really have the desired impact. Also, few Indian critics have already stated that this “jingoism” is being exercised for domestic reasons, which means for gains in the forthcoming parliamentary polls.

Even though rival parties may choose to keep quiet on issues linked with JK and Pakistan, Modi’s political gain/loss may be said to be strongly dependent on how they align and also campaign for the parliamentary elections. There has been some propaganda of their forming a grand alliance to push BJP out of power. But, as yet, it is too early to state on how, when and with which parties, this alliance will really contest polls. With Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh set to go for assembly elections, it is possible the trend here may have some impact on rival parties’ plans and also the attitude of common voters in general.

The electoral shocks received recently by BJP may have prompted it to try its hand at playing JK and anti-Pak cards. Should this be viewed as a wise move? Taking steps beyond rhetoric would be equivalent to creating more problems for the country and citizens at large. Politically, by promoting communal touch to JK-issue, Modi is placing the very “secular” mask he had donned as a part of his 2014-campaign at a grave risk. Can he afford to do so?

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