Chi­dambaram’s com­ment could cost Cong the elec­tions

DNA (Delhi) - - OPINION -

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.

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