It truly is a do-or-die situation for the BJP in Jammu and Kashmir—beleaguered in its stronghold of Jammu and driven to continuing insignificance in the valley. With less than a year left for the Lok Sabha elections, the new dispensation under Governor NN Vohra has to deliver convincingly amid all the negative forces that dot the state.
Unless the wind changes, Kashmir would be an albatross around BJP’s neck, bringing its governance a bad name across the country in an increasingly divided polity.
The immediate challenge for it is to ensure that the two-month-long Amarnath Yatra, which is an annual mass event, goes off peacefully. That the yatra passes through the hugely terror-prone South Kashmir before culminating on August 26 heightens the challenge involved.
The terror outfits would be baying for mayhem against the unarmed pilgrims to give wide publicity to their cause and to discredit the BJP for its failure to stave off terror.
Political forces in Kashmir are arrayed against Governor’s rule to embarrass the BJP and any consensus to fight the forces of sedition and Pak-exported insurgency is unthinkable except through farcical lip service.
There can be little doubt that under governor’s rule New Delhi will embark on a hard-line security-centric policy with the scaling up of counter-insurgency operations, especially in the four districts of South Kashmir that form the core of militancy — Shopian, Kulgam, Anantnag and Pulwama.
Trust deficit, governance deficit and soft separatism were the three main complaints against former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti when the BJP decided to pull the rug from under her coalition government’s feet.
The differences between the PDP and the BJP had been simmering for long. They came to a head when the BJP decided, in the wake of the terrorist killing of Rising Kashmir editor Shujaat Bukhari that it could not risk attacks on the Amarnath yatra and the ceasefire declared unilaterally by it on the goading of Mehbooba could not be extended much though she wanted that.
It is now on the cards that the Governor would adopt a more aggressive approach not only inside Kashmir but also along the Line of Control and the International Border as well.
Unlike in the recent past when the PDP used every opportunity to restrain the army from the tough action, the security forces will now have a freer hand. While that is good in principle, the army top brass would have to ensure that army excesses against civilians are kept under strict check. With a media that is greatly sensation-prone, the need for restraint in reporting cannot be over-stressed.
Significantly, estranged BJP leader of yesteryears, Yashwant Sinha, hit the nail on the head in a recent TV interview after the rupture of ties between the BJP and the PDP when he said that when he went around with a citizen’s voluntary group into the Kashmir interior he found peace all around unlike how the media had been projecting.
In BVR Subramaniam, a senior IAS officer of the Chhattisgarh cadre who is credited with having brought relative peace to the Naxal areas and retired IPS officer Vijay Kumar of the Tamil Nadu cadre who masterminded trapping and killing sandalwood smuggler Veerappan, Governor Vohra has two very efficient bureaucrats as advisers. Vohra himself has been J&K governor for a decade and is a veteran in handling Kashmir insurgency.
It is worth noting that the Assembly in Jammu and Kashmir has not been dissolved but has been kept in suspended animation. Evidently, there is a plan to re-energise the political process after a spell of Governor’s rule. Whether this would mean the BJP and the PDP coming together to form the government again or the National Conference would replace the PDP only time will tell. It is also possible that fresh elections may become inevitable. All in all, it’s doubtlessly a high-stakes battle and the BJP can ill afford to lose it under Governor’s rule.