Friday, 4 July 2014
BJP’s Mission 44 plus has rattled Omar Abdullah
BJP’s Mission 44 plus has rattled Omar Abdullah
Omar Abdullah had never expected that the NC would lose all three Kashmir Lok Sabha seats with huge margins.
Jammu & Kashmir Chief Minister and working president of the pro-autonomy and fundamentally sectarian National Conference Omar Abdullah, is, it appears, a disillusioned and broken-hearted politician. He is nervous and desperate, but nothing is moving in the direction he wants so that he might restore the lost political space to other political parties. Actually, it has been happening since September 2002, when his father and the then J&K Chief Minister, Farooq Abdullah, who was also the party president, virtually abdicated everything in favour of Omar Abdullah. It happened just on the eve of the Assembly election in J&K and the unpopular Government of Farooq Abdullah was under severe attack.
Farooq Abdullah had perhaps thought that time was opportune for Omar Abdullah’s succession. He was not content with just that. He also chose not to contest the Assembly election himself, left the state for South Africa during the highly crucial fourth phase of the election and remained inactive during the entire election campaign for all practical purposes. He was so proud of his son.
There was however, another opinion: That Omar Abdullah brought off a coup against his father and captured the party.
Young and foreign-educated but essentially reactionary and backward-looking Omar Abdullah led the party’s campaign from the front, but with no result. On the contrary, the NC’s tally in the Assembly under his leadership was drastically reduced from 57 (two-thirds majority in the 87-Member House) in 1996, to 28 in 2002 (less than 33 per cent of the total strength of the House). He himself lost the election to a candidate fielded by the newly-founded People’s Democratic Party (PDP). The PDP, which contested the Assembly election for the first time in 2002, won 18 seats. The defeat of Omar Abdullah and the NC, Kashmir’s premier political party with a communal agenda, was all the more humiliating because he lost election in the Ganderbal Assembly constituency that had remained a pocket borough of the well-entrenched Abdullah family for many decades.
In the 2008 Assembly election, Omar Abdullah’s leadership again failed to click, despite the fact that the NC remained in Opposition for six long years and the PDP-Congress Government (November 2002-November 2005) and Congress-PDP coalition Government (November 2005 and July 7, 2008) had become thoroughly unpopular owing to their acts of omissions and commissions and anti-people and anti-democratic policies. Again, the NC won 28 seats. It’s a different matter that UPA chairperson and AICC president Sonia Gandhi parted company with the PDP to please her son Rahul Gandhi, who wanted his ‘friend’ Omar Abdullah to lead the sensitive J&K State. Sonia Gandhi declared that she sacrificed her party’s interest in J&K in the larger ‘national interest’. Earlier, in 2002 as well, she had described her decision to hand over power to the PDP as a decision taken in national interest. Reports had, in 2008, also suggested that Farooq Abdullah and Omar Abdullah had moved heaven and earth to cultivate and befriend the Congress high command to fulfil their lust for power and pelf.
As said, things have not been moving in the direction Omar Abdullah wants. He had never expected that the NC would lose all three Kashmir Lok Sabha seats with a huge margin, but much to his chagrin, it happened. His own father and party patriarch Farooq Abdullah lost the election by a huge margin of over 60,000 votes to the PDP candidate. It was this ignominious defeat in the just-held Lok Sabha election that has rattled him to the extent that he has practically lost his way. He is not finding words to meet and rebut the arguments being advanced by his political arch rivals and suggest that the NC is just down and not completely out. He has been becoming a laughing stock ever since May 16, when the election results were announced and the BJP and its NDA allies came out with flying colours winning 282 and 54 seats, respectively, in the 543-Member House. The BJP-led NDA created history with the people’s unstinted support.
It would be neither desirable nor possible to catalogue here all the statements that Omar Abdullah made after May 16 in response to searching media queries. A reference to what he said on July 1 at Kashtigarh area of Doda district in Jammu province would be enough to make the point that he has lost his way. On that day, he followed in the footsteps of former Prime Minister and Janata Dal (Secular) supremo HD Deve Gowda and declared that he would quit politics if the BJP won 44 seats independently in the coming Assembly elections. “The day BJP gets majority in J&K Assembly elections, I will take retirement from active politics and go into hibernation. I do not want to see that day nor will that day come in the future,” the frustrated, jealous and rabidly anti-BJP Omar Abdullah said.
It is obvious that Omar Abdullah completely overlooked the ground realities for which HD Deve Gowda had to eat humble pie as well. It was a good gesture that he, like Omar Abdullah, participated in the oath-taking ceremony of Prime Minister Narendra Modi on May 26. This should be the approach. It bears recalling that it was on April 12, 2014 that 81-year-old Deve Gowda declared at a news conference in Shimoga (Karnataka) that he would leave Karnataka state if BJP candidate Narendra Modi became Prime Minister. “He shall retire from politics if BJP won 272 seats in the Lok Sabha elections. BJP will not get majority. Narendra Modi is dreaming of becoming Prime Minister. If this happens, I shall leave Karnataka and settle somewhere else,” he swore.
Sophisticated and experienced politicians avoid making loud assertions on things over which they have no control. It is always risky to bet on something that is not in one’s hand. But Omar Abdullah, like Deve Gowda, or for that matter all fake secular leaders including Rahul Gandhi, Digvijay Singh, Beni Prasad Varma, Mani Shankar Aiyer, Arvind Kejriwal and so on, is made of different stuff. He is a politician only in name. Clearly, he is blissfully ignorant about the political realities in J&K like Deve Gowda and others of his ilk were ignorant about the stark realities in the country, including the mood of nation. In politics, anything can happen and the outcome of the 2014 general election is a classic example in this regard. It is not the parties but the electorate that matters.
What are the ground realities in J&K? Can the BJP achieve its Mission 44+ and form a Government on its own? The BJP, which created history by winning three Lok Sabha seats in Jammu and Ladakh, has its support base in at least 36 Assembly constituencies and its leadership simply has to work hard and with single-minded devotion to convert its support-base into votes and seats. A little more effort could also help the BJP spring surprises in the Kashmir Valley, which houses a highly diverse population.
Three factors can ensure the BJP’s victory. One, the NC, which secured only about 9 per cent of the total popular votes polled in the Lok Sabha election, does not have a single leader who can inspire confidence in the demoralised NC cadres or galvanise the party. It has no organisational machinery. In fact, the NC is nothing but a bunch of opportunists, self-seekers and rabble-rousers who stand thoroughly exposed.
Two, the Congress, which secured less than 20 per cent of the total votes polled, has no credible leader. The people of Jammu and Ladakh are vehemently opposed to the Congress and its leadership. The general view in the State is that it is the Congress, more than the NC, that has been responsible for most of the ills facing the State.
The third, very important factor is the formation of a strong, stable and credible Government at the Centre. People of the State, barring the likes of Omar Abdullah, would want a Government that would have cordial relations with New Delhi because they know that J&K cannot survive even for a moment if the Union Government stops funding it. Remember, the State exchequer in J&K is empty and the State Government depends wholly and solely on the Union Government even for paying monthly salaries to its 4.5 lakh employees (estimated).
All in all, it can be said that the BJP’s electoral chances in J&K are quite bright. It has committed leadership, organisation, inclusive ideology, positive agenda, strategy, and above all the courage of conviction and confidence that is needed to meet political challenges.