Time to learn lessons

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“Justice without power is impotent; power without justice is tyranny.” This is what the major regional players – the National Conference and Peoples Democratic Party – should hear loud and clear. As is the case now, both parties are inventing explanations and pointing to the culpability of so many actors to explain their inability to safeguard the state’s and its people’s interests, but wisdom also lies in accepting with humility that the machinations of their respective coalition partners or the “conspiracies of adversaries” would have been of little consequence had they themselves stuck to their own script vis-à-vis commitments with their electorate.

In power, neither of the two showed any spine to secure the interests of their people, and this is something that has not been lost on the latter. Needless to say that the attempts of both these parties to talk about the disqualifications of the “political other” including of course the Peoples Conference which both see as threat to their political fortunes, is only an attempt to shift the focus from their own follies and shortcomings. So this even at its best has very limited chance of striking any chord with the common masses here. Overconfidence that they could overlook their failures without giving a damn to the public sentiment has already cost both NC and PDP not only their electoral arithmetic but face as well.

Instead of harping on so-called “historic initiatives” and some “invisible visions”, prudence demands that both parties instead of gloating about their legacy, go for some introspection. Together with Peoples Conference, NC and PDP should draw roadmaps to translate promises into practical action so as to lend themselves the character, poise and position of a powerful regional player representing the regional aspirations, and not just be content playing second fiddle to any national party for which Kashmir never has, and would never really be any priority. How these parties fare on their promises between now and until the Assembly elections, and thereafter will largely determine their future here. Choice is with them. They can either choose to enjoy the proud moments proudly and barter away ‘people’s trust’ for the crumbs of power, or they could consolidate people’s support and trust and lift themselves by their bootstraps.

In ‘The Federalist Papers’, Alexander Hamilton says: “What is a power, but the ability or faculty of doing a thing?  What is the ability to do a thing, but the power of employing the ‘means’ necessary to its execution?” All three regional parties need to remember that in order to do a thing well, all that is needed is power and competence. They need to learn some lessons not only from their past mistakes, but also from those of others — the PDP-Congress, NC-Congress and PDP-BJP coalitions here. Each of these dispositions had all the power at their disposal, but lack of competence proved their biggest undoing. Unless power is combined with competence, it is ‘impotent’ and ultimately leads to tyranny.

By now people of Kashmir have attainted higher degrees of political maturity – so much so that they are no longer impressed by the hollow claims and slogans of so-called “historic initiatives” and “landmark decisions”. They are not moved by the so-called ‘sacrifices’ of a particular party either, which actually do not gel with their psychological and experiential landscapes. As one of the political commentators puts it, this place has grown beyond those “ideological generations” which would be led astray by emotive slogans. Had it not been so, then the “historic initiatives” would certainly not have led to historic defeats!

Using social media to comment on everything from US healthcare policy to the happenings in West Asia, or for that matter counseling the Centre on the political ethics while conveniently skipping to talk about the glaring problems happening in one’s own front and backyards doesn’t work. Nor do appealing to the so-called legacy of “visionary” fathers and grandfathers help. People are mature enough to read through the acts of political deceit and unruly arrogance. They know how to differentiate between the chicken shit and the chicken salad. Those undermining people’s intellect and political wisdom must have learnt their lessons – though it came very hard way. Let’s see what are the inferences they draw, and then, if and how the same are translated into the corrected political behaviour.

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