The unexpected break in the BJP-PDP alliance has led to Jammu and Kashmir getting newfound scrutiny from the national media. With most of what is showcased in the mainstream media being rhetorical questions, and occasional reports about claims of secession by people of the state, the electoral aspect of Jammu & Kashmir politics more often than not gets sidelined.
Multiple voices of dissent heard from within the PDP since have only served to increase this scrutiny. But if one glances over the history of J&K politics, one realises that the situation that exists today is not all that new for the state. Let’s look at what happened in 1983.
A Recap Of The 1983 State Election
(Note: The result of the election for the Doda constituency was withheld by the Jammu and Kashmir High Court.)
The 1983 state elections saw a turnout of 73.2%. Following these elections, Farooq Abdullah came to power with his party, the National Conference (JKNC), winning a majority with 46 seats out of 75, while its closest rival, the Indian National Congress (INC), got 26 seats.
The Kashmir region was swept by the National Conference. On the other hand, by and large, Congress secured all its seats from the Ladakh and Hindu- dominated Jammu regions.
Fast forward to the most recent election that happened in the state, in 2014. By then, the political play-field of Kashmir had changed completely.
The People’s Democratic Party (PDP), led by late Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, which was nowhere on the scene during the 1984 election, secured 28 seats out of 85 contested. Its closest competitor was the Bharatiya Janata Party, which surprisingly secured 25 seats, a feat it had never achieved in the State before.
(Note: The number of Assembly seats went up from the earlier 76 to 87 after the Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir (Twentieth Amendment) Act of 1998. This meant that the majority mark in the Vidhan Sabha was now 44.)
But similar to the trends in 1983 elections, the regional party got its mandate from the Kashmir region, while the Jammu region sided with the party ruling at the Centre. This highlights the trends in the consolidation of Hindu and Muslim votes in the respective provinces.
Unlike the 1983 State election, in the 2014 elections, owing to a fractured mandate, the BJP-PDP alliance had to be formed.
The PDP, being the senior partner, got the Chief Minister’s post. It was held by Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and, after a brief spell of Governor’s Rule following his death, by his daughter Mehbooba Mufti. The BJP got the Deputy Chief Minister’s post. The state is again under Governor’s Rule after the BJP-PDP alliance broke down.
The Current Situation In Kashmir Politics Echoes 1984
The government formed in 1983 didn’t sustain for long. Less than a year after the elections, on 2 July 1984, Abdullah’s government was toppled by what many claim was a “backstab” from members of his own party.
Twelve candidates belonging to the NC and one independent candidate defected to side with the Congress. This defection was led by Abdullah’s own brother-in-law, Ghulam Mohammad Shah. Post the defection, GM Shah was made the Chief Minister and remained in office till 1986.
Thirty four years later, even though the parties involved are different, we have a similar situation in Jammu and Kashmir politics. This time, the National Conference’s regional counterpart PDP is in a tussle with the INC’s national counterpart BJP, recreating the 1984 scenario.
The tussle started with the BJP pulling out of the “alliance of compromises” on 19 June 2018, followed by Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti’s resignation.
In the weeks that followed, former Sports Minister and MLA from Pattan constituency Molvi Imran Raza Ansari, his uncle and MLA from Zadibal constituency Abid Hussain Ansari, and MLA from Tangmarg constituency Mohommad Abbaas showed their resentment towards the party and hinted towards formation of a ‘People’s Block’. In many local media reports, these three have been referred as the “PDP’s rebel-trio”.
This list has a new addition now. Recently, PDP co-founder Muzaffar Hussain Baig’s nephew Javid Hassan Baig reportedly accused the party of not paying attention to its members’ views. It is pertinent to mention here that several disgruntled MLAs have accused PDP of nepotism.
PDP at present finds itself in a tough situation, left with no option but to wait for a miracle to come its way and save what is left of the party after the latest twists and turns in Jammu and Kashmir politics.
What Happens Next?
Just months ago, PDP sacked their ‘Chief Alliance Maker’ Haseeb Drabu from his Finance Ministry portfolio. With him out of the picture as well as the recent voices of discontent, the party will likely find it extremely hard to recover and form a government, hinting towards a BJP-led government (if at all a government is formed before the 2019 elections).
In 1984, when such a spurt of defections took place, a slogan being chanted across Kashmir came to define the next phase of J&K politics. The slogan, “Marqazi sarkar murdabad” or “death to the central government”, led to a large part of the Kashmiri populace viewing the Centre as an aggressor that wanted to volatilise the situation in the state and interfere with its special status.
Kashmir politics seems to have come full circle. What remains to be seen is if all this politicking will go on to cause a rallying cry for violence and militancy, as it did once before, in 1984.
(Sadam is a 19-year-old Political Science Major. His interests include politics, activism and poetry, all of which he attributes to his memories from Kashmir, the place where he grew up.)
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are the author’s personal views.