The formal reorganisation of the state of Jammu and Kashmir into one Union Territory for J & K and another for Ladakh － which came about on October 31 － has cleared the ground for momentous changes in the troubled state which has been the hotbed of terror imported and nurtured through Pakistan. There is no denying that unlike the decades of misrule when the Centre, both under Congress and BJP dispensations, muddled along with a confused Kashmir policy characterised by lack of coherence and clarity, this time around the Narendra Modi government is working to a well-thought-out plan which will come to fruition in coming weeks. While terror will be dealt with through an iron hand, economic sops will follow for the people of the region through a package that will presage development with a keen eye on corruption. There will be a new emphasis on investment in the State with restrictions on outsiders pumping in money in projects removed through abrogation of Article 370 which is now history.
With economic activity energised in the region, the need for a new political dispensation would be a new requirement for smooth running of the administration. In that context, the sidelining of the obstructionist Hurriyat Conference and of frontline political leaders including Mehbooba Mufti, Farooq Abdullah and Omar Abdullah, among others, was the first step in a game plan to replace the old leadership with a more responsive government that would be more attuned to the needs of a strong Centre. In that context, reports that the Modi government has reached out to a new set of political leaders fall within the parameters of the chain of events leading to the overhaul of the leadership. In Muzzafar Hussein Beig, the strategists in New Delhi have found a potential leader, who was deputy chief minister in the erstwhile PDP regime before he fell out with then chief minister Mehbooba Mufti and quit the government. Among leaders, Beig had a relatively clean reputation and was known to be liberal and a no-nonsense man. The BJP would find him uncompromising on some aspects but he was deemed to be the best choice to win the trust of the people and yet not rub the Centre too hard.
Significantly, when Union Home Minister Amit Shah hosted a lunch recently for the visiting European Union delegation in Srinagar, Being was one of the invitees who interacted with the members. Leaders of the People’s Conference which is a political outfit that is on the right side of the Centre also participated in the luncheon meeting. The People’s Conference chief Sajjad Lone is being looked upon as another potential member in the upcoming proposed dispensation. A few other younger elements are being looked upon as members of the power centre. The Centre reckons that once the new regime takes over the erstwhile top political leaders would become redundant. It is of course inconceivable that there would be no roadblocks to the government’s plans, but it would be possible to surmount the emerging challenges while showing democracy to be in full bloom. The manner in which the Modi government has handled international relations on Kashmir has given hope that Pakistan’s isolation will continue.
Internally, the Modi government’s stress on glorifying Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel as the messiah who brought about the unification of erstwhile Indian princely states is an effective tool in bringing down Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru’s stature in the public eye. That October 31 marks the birth anniversary of Sardar Patel and will every year be commemorated as National Unity Day is a tribute to his memory. There can be no disputing the fact that though Sardar Patel belonged to the Congress party, in its obsession for perpetuating Nehru’s memory, the Congress especially in the decades that the Nehru-Gandhi family was at the helm, neglected Patel’s memory. Now, when the Congress turns around protesting over the denigration of Nehru, it finds it difficult to glorify Patel in the manner in which the BJP is doing. The BJP is linking the abrogation of Article 370 which conferred special status on Kashmir as a correction of something for which Nehru was responsible. All said and done, the Modi government is hopeful of drawing mileage from its new Kashmir policy.