Why BJP's Mission 44 in Kashmir is a dangerous pipe dream

The Bhartiya Janata Party has set itself the goal of 44+ seats in the impending assembly elections in the state of Jammu and Kashmir.

This self goal stems from and is predicated upon the party's unprecedented success in the 2014 parliamentary elections. The elections were and are a watershed in post independence Indian history: these brought to power a party which hitherto stood marginalized and excluded from India’s politics.

While the reasons for the stupendous victory are manifold and variegated, the central axes around which these could be said to revolve were that India stood at an ‘inflection point’ and that change was the necessary concomitant to this. The BJP was given a chance by the electorate amidst this fluid matrix of change and churn in 21st century India.

The BJP is wedded to an idea of India which views minorities essentially as outsiders and an implacable ‘Other’ and the injection of minorities( especially Muslims) into Indian history as a scar- the blot that broke and sequestered an allegedly golden Hindu past.

The minorities if they are to form and comprise the Indian firmament have to assimilate into the broader Hindu framework or in other words, get Hinduized.

Reuters

Reuters

The idea of a multi-faith, multi-religious and multi-cultural India is anathema to the protagonists of Hindutva. This cultural nationalism is exclusive and chauvinistic and it is to this that the Sangh Parivar wants India to convert to. A component of the Hindutva ideology is to abrogate Article 370 in the state of Jammu and Kashmir.( Article 370 accords special status to the state).

The BJP’s route to cultural and social homogenization of India among other things, runs through Article 370. Towards this end, the party cannot only bank upon a majority in the Parliament but also would need the support of the Constituent Assembly of Jammu and Kashmir. This can turn out to be a Sisyphean endeavour for the BJP given the structural aspects of the state’s politics and other factors which would militate against a BJP majority government in the state.

The Political space in the state of Jammu and Kashmir is currently occupied by two major parties- the National Conference and the People’s Democratic Party. Neither’s plank or manifesto is structured and geared towards abrogation of Article 370.

In fact, both parties, in different permutations and combinations, draw their core support and philosophy from Article 370 which, among other things, is premised upon ethnic nationalism. Politics of identity and ethnicity therefore form the core of both parties. And both the NC and the PDP have a pan state presence. The two main antagonists and principal players in the state’s politics are on the same page regarding Article 370 despite the deep animosity and structural differences between them

Given this, the only alternative strategy for the BJP would be to set itself up as a wedge player in the state’s politics. This would mean and entail politics of polarization and attempting to fragment the state by exploiting and playing up its various fault lines.

This strategy, if it works, can at best yield a marginal seat and vote share in the state. It will not be enough to shift the balance of power towards the BJP. The target of 44+ is then a pipe dream for the Sangh Parivar and its filial affiliate , the BJP. Added up, this means that the state will retain its special status notwithstanding the rhetorical devices employed by the BJP.

The issue and concern, however, is a larger theme and issue.

That is, the Hindutvization of India or the re-ideologizing of it. Essentially, pared down to essence, the BJP appears to believe India is a de facto Hindu country; it, however, needs to be made into a de jure one. Or, in other words, implied majoritarianism needs to be transformed into explicit majoritarianism. This then validates the two nation theory. The state of Jammu and Kashmir becomes central to this agenda.

While for the Congress, the state and India’s sovereign remit over it constituted validation for the state’s secular nature and credentials, for the BJP, assimilation of the state and its comprehensive incorporation becomes central. Which vision and idea pans out and come to pass will be contingent on the nature of India’s identity.

In the course of India’s quest and search for identity, Jammu and Kashmir will be one of the main axes of self formation and identity. This will have implications on the comprehensive resolution of the dispute over the state.

A maximalist approach will be fraught with peril and could potentially fan the conflict in the state whilst a moderate one may bring the conflict to some sort and kind of closure.

The nature and form of the idea of India will determine which scenario comes to pass. In the meantime, the shape and form of politics in the state of Jammu and Kashmir could also change. Whether this will be for the good or ‘bad’, would depend on the final shape of India’s quest for identity.

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Updated Date: Aug 23, 2014 14:42:13 IST

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