Search for new Trojan horses
The pro India camp is facing serious crisis of leadership in Kashmir. All the senior stalwarts New Delhi had produced and promoted over the decades have lost to their age, and the youngers-in-line have either failed disastrously or are not clicking up.
Saifuddin Soz and Dr Farooq Abdullah are the only two faces from the older order. Being in their mid-80s, both of them appear to have outlived their utility.
After he was relieved off as the state head of the Congress two years back, Soz is virtually in political hibernation.
Farooq Abdullah despite having some health problems in recent past, however, is quite active and presently leads the National Conference from the front. In the present scenario, he sees a chance for his party in the assembly elections as and when held.
The collapse of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) that was promoted as an alternative to the National Conference has generated hope for Farooq Abdullah to recapture the lost ground. But Farooq Abdullah, for his flamboyant, and on occasions maverick, character has never been the first choice of New Delhi. It was against this backdrop that a lot of investment was made on his son Omar Abdullah.
When Omar Abdullah was installed as chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir in 2009, he was presented as great Indian hope. “Young, energetic, dynamic” and several other adjectives, which on occasions defied logic, were attributed to the scion of Kashmir’s first political family. A renowned journalist of a national news channel addressed him as “Obama of Kashmir”, forgetting the fact that Rabri Devi was chief minister of a state (Bihar) 10 times bigger than the state Omar headed.
Omar was also projected as unlike his ‘carefree’ father Farooq Abdullah, whose overindulgence had earned him the image of a non-serious and attention-deficit playboy. But when the actual moment of reckoning came Omar Abdullah looked like a pale shadow of the promising young leader he was projected to be.
Omar has inherited all the failings of his family. He has arrogance of his grandfather Shaikh Mohammad Abdullah. He is casual and carefree like his father Farooq Abdullah. Over and above he has the traits of a juvenile street boy—fiddling with his mobile, sending SMS, playing games and chatting on social networking websites. He survived dismissal (as chief minister) on several occasions in 2010 when entire Kashmir streets erupted in revolt against Indian rule. Lack of proper alternative chanced him to remain in power.
Mahbooba Mufti was nourished as another hope in Kashmir but she proved even more disastrous. Kashmir has never witnessed as much alienation, disconnect and disaffection with Delhi as in her tenure as chief minister. She was unceremoniously shown the door and the after-effects of which resulted in the collapse of her very party—PDP.
Most of the senior leaders, former ministers and MLAs have left the PDP to join other parties or to form their own one.
The new hope Shah Faesal crashed even before his formal launch.
Shah Faesal was projected as icon of Kashmiri youth when he topped the IAS in 2010. Many young minds were inspired by him and in the process got to the prestigious All India Civil Services. That he could prove an icon in politics as well did not click.
Politicians are the most tried and tested class in Kashmir. People know it for the fact that the mainstream politicians are mere agents, who are not supposed to cross the line. That Shah Faesal would not be different can be understood from the fact that he has become a ‘suspect’ even before formally announcing his political plans.
Observers watching the developments understand that, in the growing scenario, a new thinking is dawning on Kashmir strategists in Delhi, who are working on finding ways for new options.
According to them, the so-far Kashmir centric politics is likely to witness a drastic change.
The focus would now be more on giving Jammu the leadership role of the state.
While efforts would be to build a united face in Jammu, the valley would be fragmented into single-constituency units.
The indication to this effect came, last month, when Ram Madhav, BJP general secretary, said that his party would form the next government in the state with the help of “some friends” in Kashmir.
BJP has already won the favor of Sajjad Gani Lone, who wields influence in Kupwara district and parts of Baramullah district. Ghulam Hasan Mir and Hakim Yasin reportedly too have soft corner for the BJP. Altaf Bukhari, who was recently expelled from the PDP, along with another senior stalwart Mohammad Dilawar Mir, is likely to launch his own party. For having been expelled from the PDP, and the NC unwilling to accept him, his choices too would be quite limited.
Reports emanating from the knowledgeable political circles say that a massive exercise is going on to identify, and introduce several other new faces (enjoying some sort of influence or prominence in their areas) to politics ahead of assembly elections.
The main aim of the exercise is to break the valley into bits and pieces to pave way for Jammu’s control. Efforts to evolve a loose alliance among them in the name of ‘third front’ are secretly going on.