Maybe, the Prime Minister can take part in the Eid festivities in Srinagar next year, but for this reason alone his decision to spend Diwali in the flood-ravaged State cannot be faulted. The Modi visit to Kashmir on the biggest festival in the country does not become less significant because he somehow failed to be in the Valley on the last Eid. Indeed, because a large number of people in Jammu and Kashmir is yet to recover fully from the disruption caused by the unprecedented floods, Modi’s decision to spend Diwali in the State is most appropriate, never mind the professional naysayers and motivation hunters. Yes, the next Assembly election is due soon in the State. But anyone who thinks the PM visit is actuated by a desire to exploit it for political ends rather than to ensure urgent steps for the return of normalcy in the flood-hit State seems to be an incorrigible partisan. The truth is that under Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, the State Government had virtually become non-existent; for three days when the flood fury was at its worst, the State government seemed to have vanished, there was no trace of CM and his ministers. Following harrowing reports of the continuing suffering of Kashmiri families due to the stagnant flood waters in their homes and bazaars, the PM visit is bound to speed up the implementation of necessary relief and rehabilitation measures. Kashmiris must not feel abandoned by the central government, which, admittedly, did a fine job in the initial days of the flood to rescue as many people as could be from the century’s biggest floods. Besides, the personal presence of Modi is bound to send out a stern signal to the ISI-inspired separatist groups that the country’s commitment to Kashmir and Kashmiris remains undiminished. The protest bandh call against the PM visit given by the separatist outfit, the Hurriyat Conference, is counter-productive. It merely disrupts whatever normalcy there is and needlessly causes fear and coercion in the minds of ordinary Kashmiris who would rather get on with their everyday lives without the rude intrusion of these mercenaries. The fact is that the border State is suffering from the lack of a functioning State Government. Under the relatively young chief minister, governance had further deteriorated. Abdullah’s failure to provide a modicum of governance, and his blind eye to the diversion of development funds in the private pockets of his own party men and other vested interests, had further hollowed the State treasury. Following the recent floods, the woeful state of the finances was further highlighted, with the State Government unable to pay for even the relief and rehabilitation costs of the flood victims. Despite the Centre offering a generous financial package within days of the floods, the Abdullah Government has now come up with a demand for a whopping Rs 44,000 crore compensation package for undoing the damage caused by the floods. There can be no doubt that Modi would consider the demand after evaluating the situation first-hand and come to a fair and just solution, though he must not rely on the Abdullah Government to deliver relief to the flood-hit, given its total lack of administrative capacity.
Meanwhile, the schedule for the Assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir ought not to be overly influenced by the continuing presence of flood waters in certain parts of the State. Since the National Conference is staring at a huge drubbing, it can have a vested interest in putting off the polls as far back as possible. The Election Commission ought to guard itself against overly grim picture being painted by the incumbent Abdullah Government. In fact, given the abject failure of the Government to tackle the flood situation, it can be argued that an early election and the installation of a popular regime in Srinagar is the best way to ensure the return of normalcy in the flood-ravaged State. Floods cannot be allowed to become the lifeline for the corrupt and non-performing Abdullah Government to stick to office indefinitely.