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|August 12, 2002||
Mohammad Sayeed Malik
Long live the king's party!
Come what may, the forthcoming assembly election in Jammu and Kashmir is destined to produce the 'traditional' result -- victory for the king's party. None of the nine assembly polls held since 1951 have resulted in a change of government, though nine chief ministers have come and gone during this period and as many governments have been replaced.
It is rather difficult to explain as to why this 'unique' feature about J&K does not find as loud a mention as its Constitutional uniqueness under Article 370. Fair or not fair, free or not free, elections in Kashmir have a habit of returning the ruling party. If it were not for the Caesarean procedure adopted by the Centre to deliver a 'government' for the state, repeated normal deliveries of elected governments would have made life seem drab and colourless. In a way, central surgical intervention has come to be seen as a life-supporting device for Kashmiri democracy -- or democracy in Kashmir -- whichever description pleases you.
Farooq Abdullah's stubborn refusal to oblige the Centre by consenting to the imposition of governor's rule stems from his lurking -- not totally baseless -- fear that some other entity might step into the shoes of the king's party which, by the uninterrupted local tradition, must win the election. Farooq is there on top and he will remain on top, after the election. That is the safest prediction to make. But what is difficult to predict is that for how long he would be 'allowed' to remain there.
If elections and elected leaders really mattered Sheikh Abdullah would not have been undemocratically dismissed as prime minister of J&K in 1953 when he enjoyed the support of the entire legislative assembly. Again, Syed Mir Qasim would not have been 'persuaded' in 1975 to step down as duly elected chief minister to make way for the very same Sheikh who at that time was not a member of the assembly nor commanded any direct support of his own.
Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad who succeeded the Sheikh in 1953 and ruled the state for a decade, winning assembly polls in 1957 and 1962, became a casualty of Jawaharlal Nehru's famous Kamaraj plan in 1963. Before the next assembly election was held in 1967, Bakshi's little known successor Shamasuddin was replaced by G M Sadiq who died in harness in 1971. Mir Qasim stepped into Sadiq's shoes just before the 1972 assembly polls but halfway through he had to be unseated 'in larger interests of the nation.' The Sheikh's 'return to the national mainstream' saw him necessitate the exit of a 'popularly elected' chief minister. This fact was also mentioned by then governor L K Jha before administering the oath of office to Sheikh Abdullah.
The Sheikh government was brought down by the Congress before the 1977 election which eventually saw him sweeping back into power. His successor Farooq Abdullah fought and won the 1983 election but he found himself on the street the following year. Farooq's brother-in-law G M Shah ascended the throne but was not allowed remain there when elections were due. Farooq Abdullah regained chief ministership in 1986, courtesy Rajiv Gandhi. His victory in the 1987 assembly election did not help him go any further than 1989 when he resigned to protest against the Centre's decision to appoint Jagmohan as the state's new governor, for the second time. Farooq had to cool his heels till 1996.
Now that off-again, on-again 'talks' with the Kashmiri separatist leaders are back in circulation, the predictable outcome of the forthcoming assembly election does not provide sufficient guarantee for the longevity of the present king's party. Bakshi, Shamsuddin, Mir Qasim, Farooq and G M Shah have all served as the placenta for the Centre's Caeserean procedure to deliver more 'desirable' governments than those thrown up by successive assembly elections.
Farooq would in that case be making a (dubious) hat-trick. He won the 1983 election but was overthrown in 1984. He won the 1987 election but resigned in 1989 before Jagmohan arrived on the scene amid sweeping militancy. Farooq is poised to win the 2002 election, as easily as he had won the polls, in 1987 and 1983. If an electoral 'tradition' is about to repeat itself can post-election political history be far behind?
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