Modi govt cornered

Modi govt cornered

Rajeev Sharma
FORGET the assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, due in just about five months. Forget the perennial seesaw in India-Pakistan bilateral relations, which have soured further even after a maiden visit to Pakistan by Indian Home Minister Rajnath Singh last week for a multilateral event. Forget the historic passage by Indian Parliament of India’s biggest taxation reform, the Goods and Services Tax bill.
Right now the Modi government needs to have a deep focus on the sensitive border state of Jammu and Kashmir, which has been reeling under bloody violence since the July 8 killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani. The Kashmir valley has been under curfew for over a month now.
At least 56 people have died and over 5,000 injured in clashes between protesters and security forces and the situation remains volatile even after a month. The valley is facing its severest crisis since 2010. Similar bloody clashes had erupted in the Kashmir valley during the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government in 2008 and 2010. Ironically on both these occasions too the same political dispensation was in place in the state as well as at the Centre. This time too it is a similar situation: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is in power both at the Centre and in Jammu and Kashmir.
This is weird. The same political dispensation at the Centre and in the state should help better political synergy and, therefore, smoother governance. But this hasn’t happened and this inexplicable trend has emerged for the third time in eight years. It only shows the chasm between New Delhi and Srinagar has remained unbridgeable over the past three successive governments in New Delhi and Srinagar.
It’s a serious challenge for the Modi government.
The BJP stormed into power in India’s only Muslim-dominated state for the first time in last year’s assembly elections. It shares power in the state with Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti’s People's Democratic Party (PDP).
But the problem is that just after a year since the PDP-BJP stormed into power in the state, they are completely at sea in controlling the situation in the state. The Kashmir tangle should be seen from two perspectives, domestic and international.
Domestically, the happenings in Jammu and Kashmir cannot be segregated from the happenings in rest of India and vice versa. For example, if the Modi government fails to quickly restore normalcy in Jammu and Kashmir, it will severely impact his party’s poll prospects in UP. Besides, many more states are due for assembly elections along with UP, like Punjab, Uttarakhand, Goa and Manipur. The home state of Modi — Gujarat — is also due for assembly polls by next year-end.
Just before the historic general elections in 2014 the BJP had polarized the voters along communal and caste lines and reaped a rich political harvest, most evidently in UP where the saffron party had unprecedentedly won 71 out of 80 Lok Sabha seats on its own. Since the advent of the Modi government 26 months ago, the ruling BJP has been accused of intolerance against minorities and Dalits or people belonging to backward classes.
It’s only in last few days that Modi has spoken against the hounding of Dalits, the violence committed by self-styled cow protection vigilantes and the precarious situation in Jammu and Kashmir. The opposition has repeatedly slammed Modi for his alleged inaction on all counts mentioned above. Clearly, the Modi government’s fault lines in Kashmir will cost the party dearly in other parts of the country.
Internationally, the Modi government has to be mindful of the Pakistan factor. For decades, Pakistan has been claiming to accord political and moral support to the Kashmiris in their struggle against the alleged atrocities by the Indian security forces. But the Indian government has been accusing Pakistan of stoking the Kashmir fire. None other than Home Minister Rajnath Singh has stated in Parliament that Pakistan was behind the current unrest in Kashmir.
The Modi government’s uphill task is to stay engaged with Pakistan on the Kashmir situation without seeming to give away vital brownie points to the neighbor. It had a whale of an opportunity to launch a frontal attack on Pakistan over the spontaneous violence that gripped all 10 districts of Pakistan-administered Kashmir but the Modi government was too embroiled on a host of domestic issues that it let go the opportunity.
Both the sides — India and Pakistan — know that neither would give away its part of Kashmir to the other party on a platter. The Kashmir issue fuels the India-Pakistan discord.
One thing that Modi needs to do immediately is to reach out to the Kashmiris with a healing touch. Surely, the Modi government wouldn’t want a situation wherein it is accused of keeping Kashmir but losing the Kashmiris.
Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News' point-of-view