It was coming
That the Congress finds itself pushed to the margins of Indian politics is something this party may not reconcile with so easily. However, it doesn’t alter the reality, not in J&K, and certainly not elsewhere in the mainland. And the reality is that the way this party has conducted itself – say in Kashmir — has left little reason for the people here to believe that it wants welfare and wellbeing of the people, not to speak of striving for peace here. This is perhaps why the party has steadily eroded whatever little base it had in the Valley. No wonder today when different political formations have busied themselves in doing politics over the state’s special status, not much is being heard from the grand old Congress party. Understandably it has lost the locus to talk about special status because this is the party responsible for its steady erosion over the past seventy years.
Congress has always used Kashmir as a ploy to consolidate vote-bank elsewhere in the country. But even now, the party does not seem to have and regret or remorse for this. So it goes without saying that the successive Congress governments have so well-deservingly earned all the disdain they are getting from the people of Jammu and Kashmir, as they do in mainland India? In Kashmir the party’s track-record has been far worse.
For long, the party took people of Jammu and Kashmir for granted, more so during a full decade of two successive UPA regimes in Delhi, and corresponding 12 years of Congress coalition governments in J&K. At a time when the party could really have made a big difference to the situation and politics of Jammu and Kashmir, it busied itself with securing the interests of its corrupt leaders and workers, even when their unscrupulous deeds were brazenly explicit — be it the party ministers facilitating cheating by their immediate kin in examinations or still more degrading acts of moral corruption or polarizing the state along the regional and religious lines.
Similarly, if one looks at the politics concerning Kashmir – the political dispute here both in its domestic as well as international dimensions – there were countless opportunities which were just squandered because party was more concerned about its selfish politics than about the interests of the people here or elsewhere in India. The comparative calm that followed the three successive mass agitations of 2008, 2009 and 2010 had provided a unique window of opportunity for Congress-led UPA government at the Centre together with Congress-partnered state government of the time to follow-up with some well-meaning political initiatives. But this didn’t happen.
For instance, the exercises that were conducted with much fan-fare – like then Prime Minister constituting different Working Groups to study different problem areas of Kashmir’s relationship with the Union, conducting Kashmir roundtables, or appointing interlocutors on Kashmir – the outcome of all these measures, the recommendations that were put forth were left to gather dust, much like the earlier avatars of similar initiatives. All these things have proved counter-productive in the sense that they have only further eroded the trust and credibility not only of the Congress party but even of New Delhi in Kashmir and completely decimated any goodwill for the Congress and its leaders here.
Today the general perception here is that Congress’ Kashmir policy was programmed by its arrogance of hegemony. And this perception is not totally unfounded. In fact the hindsight has it that New Delhi has a tendency of taking Kashmir for granted. Congress did it and today its politics is finding it very difficult to find any traction here or elsewhere. Let’s hope that the BJP government that has replaced Congress in New Delhi and most of other states will draw from the mistakes of the grand old party of Indian politics.