Often, by default, you end up doing the right thing. On Wednesday, the dissolution of the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly is one such act. The Governor, Satya Pal Malik, was keen to install a government led by Sajad Lone, which was to be supported by the rebel MLAs of the PDP and BJP’s 25. He had two MLAs of his own. Sensing trouble, Mehbooba Mufti and Omar Abdullah, hitherto bitter rivals, came together.
And staked claim to form a government, with the Congress Party also supporting the two. The three parties together had 55 members; the half-way mark in the Assembly, under suspended animation since June, was 44. The Sajad Lone plot had come to nought. Hurriedly, the Governor recommended dissolution of the Assembly. There was irony here, too. Since the fall of the PDP-BJP government in June this year, the National Conference and the PDP were demanding the dissolution of the Assembly and early elections.
On Wednesday, they protested the dissolution and talked of challenging the decision in court. Of course, nothing can come out of that challenge since the composition of the House was such that it did not present any chance of a stable government. The gamble of installing Lone as chief minister was well worth the attempt as well, if for nothing else than to prove that in a crisis for survival the traditional Kashmir-centric rivals, PDP and NC, can work together.
The Congress gratuitously hanging on to their coattails suggests that it is desperate for finding relevance in a State from where it was virtually edged out by the PDP-BJP partnership, since broken. The Congress would look at getting back a few more seats in the Jammu region which last time was completely swept up by the BJP. Quite clearly, the dissolution of the Assembly is an opportunity for the central government to put in place firm hands in command of the law and order machinery at the ground level before the Valley is wrapped under a blanket of snow and the border with Pakistan is made inaccessible to the ISI intruders. A period of relative peace allows the Governor to implement the security measures badly needed to undertake combing operations for flushing out the ISI operatives.
Political activity in the troubled State will be slow to pick up, given not only the approaching winter but the sorting out of shotgun alliances between bitter rivals. Since a fresh Assembly election cannot be countenanced for some months, how the NC-PDP relationship will shape up remains to be seen, especially when they essentially compete for the same turf in Kashmir. The BJP is isolated, a state it has been in all through, with its strength virtually confined to the Jammu region.
The central government will be well-advised to leave politicking well alone in Kashmir and concentrate on strengthening the security set-up ahead of the Assembly elections in the State which in all likelihood might now be held along with the Lok Sabha poll sometime next year. Ideally, dissolution should have been the last resort. However, installing a PDP-NC-Congress government in J and K would have served no one’s cause, and it would have certainly added to the woes of the central government vis-à-vis the jihadi challenge. Now, the onus is on Governor Satya Pal Malik, a lightweight politician, to prove his worth, providing a semblance of peace and order and governance-delivery at the grassroots.