After looking at that headline, I know some of you must be thinking: These Bhakts think PM Modi functions at another level of consciousness, that he’s a bag of masterstrokes on a multi-dimensional chessboard. Guilty as charged, dear reader. But even if it is a figment of my imagination, do indulge me and read on. At the end of it, whatever you might think, it would have been worth the read if you’re politically inclined.
So the elections in the state of Jammu and Kashmir were held in 2014. The BJP’s strong showing in the Jammu region during the Lok Sabha elections a few months before meant that their prospects were promising. But nobody ever thought they would sweep the Jammu region the way they did. Now, they were suddenly in a position to call the shots at the state level for the first time, meaning they were potential stakeholders at the state level.
What could the BJP’s objectives have been in Jammu and Kashmir, and how could the party have leveraged its strong showing in the Jammu region to serve those very objectives? Let us have no illusions about reality and get a few things straight. This is the best that the BJP could ever have performed in the state, and will ever do, unless the distribution of seats to the different regions (Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh) is overhauled completely. The valley will never vote for the BJP. So BJP’s realistic objectives (not larger ones like dealing with Pakistan effectively or deleting article 370) were to preserve its vote-base in Jammu, but control what happens in the valley at the same time. The three or four districts in the valley which are severely afflicted by separatism and terrorism, are a focal point in national discourse.
After the results were declared and it was clear that nobody had a majority, any permutation or combination could have taken over. The BJP wanted to destroy the terrorist network and its separatist backbone in the valley. Not only was this in national interest, but quelling the insurgency and displaying seriousness on the national security front was politically imperative as well.
For this, they would either have to lead the government, or ensure that the hung mandate would necessarily result in president’s rule. The first option of leading the government was ruled out immediately, as both the PDP and the National Conference were willing to take the BJP’s support but not part with the chief ministership. The question of coming together with the Congress Party and forming the government obviously never arose. The second option of president’s rule wasn’t sustainable. Even if the PDP, the National Conference and the Congress Party could not come to an agreement immediately, they would have six months to come to an agreement and form a hochpoch government, thus making the BJP’s strong showing in Jammu completely redundant.
How could the BJP have its cake and eat it too? There was only one way. The party compromised with all its core principles and formed a government with the PDP. The Indian forces were given a free hand in the valley, and despite how the PDP kept trying to hold the BJP back, separatist blood began to flow in the valley. Terrorists were butchered like never before, separatists were boycotted by India, and at the same time, the Modi government ensured that a number of developmental projects were initiated in the state. The PDP did not realise it had been played. Both the National Conference and the PDP, despite the façade they put on in Noida’s television studios, have separatist undertones at the core of their politics. In their lust for power, the PDP was fast losing ground. But most importantly, it was becoming politically untouchable for the National Conference and the Congress Party.
The BJP was losing ground too, in Jammu. People were unhappy about how they had come together with the PDP. There was also a sense that the Mufti government was pushing a soft Islamist agenda in Jammu, a realization that gained a lot of traction during the Kathua controversy. These were short term losses though. The assault on the terrorists continued despite the state police allegedly not sharing proper intelligence with the Centre, and despite the Mufti government taking ridiculous decisions like filing FIRs on men in uniform. The PDP’s last resort was arm-twisting the BJP into declaring a Ramzan ceasefire. The thinking behind it from the PDP’s perspective was obvious- that it would help them recover lost ground and it would rescue them from political untouchability. Not only was this too little too late, the timing could not have possibly been worse for the PDP.
The ceasefire, as expected, backfired completely. This was the opportunity the BJP was looking for. One year before the general elections, the party needed two or three big ticket items to get into campaign mode confidently, and quelling terrorism in the valley would certainly serve as one of them. This was the right time to pull out of the government too, because president’s rule was a given now. The BJP had isolated the PDP politically to such an extent that the National Conference or the Congress Party was not in a position to support the PDP anymore, and allow them to continue in government. This was a ticket for the BJP, from playing second fiddle for two and a half more years to ruling the state with an iron fist for half a year.
This is exactly what the BJP would have looked to pull off when it got into bed with the PDP in the first place- to isolate it politically, dump it, and rule the state without any hindrance for six months right before the general elections. Perhaps that’s the reason it even allowed a ceasefire during Ramzan. But all said and done, it achieved its objective. It pulled out of the government at the right time.
The party’s intent was clear. Within forty-eight hours of the president’s rule kicking in, some of the most effective bureaucrats and police officers were deployed in the state as the governor’s advisors. NSG commandos were sent in. Separatists were jailed, and terrorist-slaughter began with renewed vigour. The Home Ministry under Rajnath Singh choked Naxalism in India without much fanfare. But the next six months in Kashmir will be a massacre with much pomp, a therapeutic bloodbath that the entire country will find fulfilling. This will be the Modi government’s KPS Gill moment.
In the process, the BJP has successfully retained Jammu. Not only has it gone after the troublemakers, it gave Mehbooba the boot too. The party has made Jammu very happy, but more importantly, it has made a lot of people across the country very happy. This will certainly help them in the run-up to 2019, and here’s hoping India slaughters many more terrorists in the valley.
Was it all pre-planned? One can never be sure, but to me, it does seem like a lot of it was!