Chidambaram’s comment could cost Cong the elections
The sovereignty of Jammu & Kashmir has, for decades now, been a gnarled problem that continues to bedevil successive Indian governments. More than ever, it was incumbent on the Opposition to treat this complicated issue, having grave repercussions for the unity and territorial integrity of India, with a scalpel-like precision. This precision, sadly, was nowhere on show when former Finance and Home Minister P Chidambaram declared that the autonomy demand of Kashmir ought to be examined seriously. Naturally, the BJP is making mincemeat of the Congress on Chidambaram’s statement and one can hardly blame them. It’s politics at its best. Even the Congress, equally embarrassed by his statement, is on the back foot and has distanced itself from his statement. To be fair, Chidambaram may be right when he says that there might still be avenues under the aegis of the Constitution that can be explored for securing autonomy for J&K, caught as it is in a vortex between terrorists and the state since India’s independence. However, such candid comments are pregnant with electoral ramifications, and the expectation was that a veteran politician like Chidambaram would not slip on such a front. With such a comment, Chidambaram has made a profound faux pas and the bite of it will be felt most in the Gujarat Assembly election results. Even if one is to make out a case for autonomy, the question arises as to why Chidambaram would raise an argument for it now. As a key Union minister under the UPA regime, he could have steered the narrative towards Kashmiri autonomy and could have capitalised on his position to voice the purported grievances of the people of J&K. However, contemporary political history would indicate that Chidambaram has fared quite badly on this front. To call for Kashmiri autonomy now is an afterthought, and is clearly in bad political taste. Quite rightly then, PM Modi, in his speech, has attacked the Congress for “shamelessly”doing an about-turn on its own policies, effectively turning its back on the valiant sacrifices of hundreds of our soldiers. This newly-minted controversy has been grist for the National Conference’s mill. It was in 2000, that the Farooq Abdullah-led government passed an autonomy resolution in the J&K Legislative Assembly, only for it to be rejected by the NDA government at the Centre. Hypothetically, even if autonomy is accepted for the state, it does not necessarily translate into good riddance from terrorism. Pakistan’s agenda for spreading terror, even with no inkling to Kashmiri autonomy, will still continue unabated. What’s worse, securing autonomy could lend a moral boost to the separatists. At such a juncture, the BJP government is playing its cards wisely and has scored a diplomatic coup by appointing former IB chief Dineshwar Sharma as interlocutor, to amicably engage in a dialogue with Kashmiri stakeholders. On the other hand, NIA’s campaign against the flow of illicit funds to separatists will help keep the pressure on the separatists, leaving them with little elbow space.