New Delhi: Instead of calming the situation in Jammu and Kashmir, the Narendra Modi government passes up no opportunity to stir the pot. The latest is the decision to act via J and K governor Satya Pal Malik to dissolve the state assembly when the opposition united to challenge a central BJP scheme to support a minority government of Sajjad Lone. Home minister Rajnath Singh has denied the Centre’s role in the dissolution but it convinces few. Not only is the Centre/ Malik’s decision mala fide and unconstitutional, it needlessly pushes Jammu and Kashmir into the purgatory of governor’s rule/ president’s rule from which emergence, recovery and the conduct of elections are always fraught.

This writer and this magazine have sought from the start a second elected government in J and K after the first, a shaky coalition of the Peoples’ Democratic Party and the Bharatiya Janata Party, fell after the BJP pulled out under local party unit pressure. The moral basis of Jammu and Kashmir’s integration with India is democracy sustained by the process of free and fair elections. Given the present mischief-making of the Narendra Modi government, it is ironic that the first two freest and fairest elections in Jammu and Kashmir were conducted by non-Congress governments at the Centre. The first was under the first Janata rule and the second when A. B. Vajpayee served as prime minister. The incumbent BJP government at the Centre has undermined its own stalwart leader.

Governor Malik is disingenuous when he claims that the prospect of horse-trading compelled him to dissolve the J and K assembly. Pray what was the scheme with Sajjad Lone about if not horse-trading? The idea was that Lone would become chief minister with the backing of the BJP and a bunch of defectors from the PDP. When the opposition got wise to this and joined hands, the Centre panicked and rushed Satya Pal Malik to dissolve the assembly. The correct course was for the governor to ask the side with a manifest majority of legislators to confirm its strength on the floor of the house. If Lone could have proved the majority, good luck to him. If not, the opposition combine should have been invited in turn. When post-poll realignment of political forces takes place all over the country and indeed is the source of the BJP’s presence in strength in most parts of the country, why should Malik have sought to insulate J and K? Democracy has its good and bad sides. Exposure of Kashmiris to both faces of democracy would not lower their estimation of democracy but counter-intuitively increase it. Democracy brings a natural and every-changing order to things. It is not artificial, divisive, constrictive and superficially ordered such as authoritarianism and totalitarianism. Deriving from the RSS, the BJP leadership has a natural propensity for strong-arm measures. Satya Pal Malik’s action is an ugly manifestation of this ideology. He and the Centre he represents collectively have delivered a blow to the democratic consciousness that links Jammu and Kashmir with the rest of the country. Elections have to be held at the earliest in Jammu and Kashmir. But this is easier said than done because muscular Central policies have vastly alienated the local population.

If the local bodies’ election that was recently conducted is any indication, Jammu and Kashmir is not ready for assembly polls for a considerable while. The failure of the local bodies’ election is directly attributable to the disastrous policies of the Narendra Modi government. At the time when Modi came to power, J and K had reached a high plane of peace where the conduct of Lok Sabha and assembly elections had become routine. To plunge from there to a bottom where even credible local elections cannot be held demonstrates the erosion of mainstream politics and opinion. Worsening the trend is the rush of BJP/RSS leaders like Ram Madhav to label the opposition as pro-Pakistan. Such hateful sentiments may consolidate BJP votes in Jammu but it would equally distance Kashmir from the mainstream.

Jammu and Kashmir needs more democracy and not less. Democracy makes India flourish and Jammu and Kashmir is no different. Deng Xiaoping’s pragmatic politico-economic philosophy of colour-neutral mice-catching cats applies in whole to elected J and K governments.