Jammu’s political theatre is mute amid buzz of polls

By Sahil Mahajan

The political theatre in Jammu is in a silent mode. At a time when  the buzz of Assembly elections is filling the air, it appears that the political  parties in Jammu  appear to be immune to it as if nothing is happening , or nothing is going to happen.  This silence is more striking because  of the  extraordinary noises and the work under way on the political landscape of Kashmir , where almost all Kashmir-centric parties are working hard to make  themselves heard . They are asking for Assembly elections at the earliest .

Here, a fact should be recognised  that the Valley has Kashmir-centric parties , whether it is the oldest National Conference , or People’s Democratic Party or for that matter People’s Conference. The newest political grouping  Apni Party , too is mostly Kashmir-oriented . Jammu has no Jammu-centric party, and that is a fact that should be accepted without any grudge  as the political leadership of Jammu  has, always looked toward Delhi . Earlier, its eyes were set on what Congress does , and now it is the BJP.  This is perhaps because of the nationalistic approach of the people in the place , who believe that aligning with the  national parties carries forward their nationalistic agenda and proves their nationalistic credentials  the way they wanted .

The national parties have  their own compulsions . They cannot be region-specific . For long , Congress  adopted a balanced approach , it spoke of Jammu’s concerns  in whispers but not as loudly as the people in Jammu would have expected the party to articulate .  BJP , now and earlier, in its original incarnation as Jan Sangh,  took advantage of Congress’s limitations to talk about “ discrimination “ against Jammu . The saffron party made “ discrimination “ with  Jammu as its central theme.  That was its mantra to survive and connect with  widely held sentiment in the region. It served two purposes for it – one,  this mantra was used as a stick to beat Congress on the political  plane , and secondly, since it did not have  presence in the Valley  so it felt no need to balance its  political fulcrum.

In the changed scenario , since 2014  when BJP emerged as  the biggest political force in the country with the arrival of Narendra Modi on the  national scene  as Prime Minister , and his charisma  that left Indians awestruck , the party  changed the tone . It embarked on a new political theme  of  appointing someone from Jammu as Chief Minister of the erstwhile state, which is now divided into two union territories.. This is not just the dilution of the idea of the state , geographically, the whole issue has been reduced to  the chief  minister of UT of J&K. There is a further dilution from the high sounding  campaign of Hindu  Chief Minister from Jammu region to BJP’s Chief Minister. The nuances are very clear that , it doesn’t want to give an impression to the world , that is a party of Hindus only , or  that of  Hindu-majority Jammu region , but that of the whole of  Jammu and Kashmir , where Muslims are in a majority . There can be no quarrel with its idea of  having chief minister from the  party. That’s political  and it encompasses the whole  of Jammu and Kashmir Accordingly, it has toned down its Jammu-centric approach . As also that it is ruling  party at the Centre,  there are  political redlines too . It cannot afford to  annoy the  Kashmiri Muslims . It is making all-out efforts to make itself relevant in the thought process of Kashmir . As a consequence ,  it is silent  on the regional issues, whether these concern political urges and aspirations,  economic empowerment or raising its profile as the real place from where new political narratives could be launched . 

This silence   is being watched as the people want to  hear some noises about them as that is what would determine how the electoral battle will shape up at the time of elections.