Post abrogation of Art 370, has defection become new norm in J-K politics?

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Post abrogation of the Article 370 on 5 August 2019, Jammu and Kashmir (J-K) is witnessing a surge in the defection by the politicians. At least 40 senior politicians including former Members of Legislative Assembly (MLA), Council and Ministers have changed their parties in recent years. 

Post August 2019, Syed Altaf Bukhari led Jammu and Kashmir Apni Party (JKAP) came into existence with the majority of politicians coming from Jammu Kashmir Peoples Democratic Party (JKPDP) which Bukhari himself  was associated with. 

After his release from political detention, Sajad Gani Lone headed Jammu Kashmir Peoples Conference (JKPC) has been also strengthening its base in the region.

JKPC managed to get at least 10 senior politicians into the party fold in the past few months. 

Mehbooba Mufti led JKPDP, one of the largest parties in the region that remained part of government twice since its launch in 1999,  had to bear the major loss in the form of defection.

The party started disintegrating after its coalition partner Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) pulled out support from the government in 2018. As per data available nearly two dozen politicians have left the party or were sacked since the coalition breakdown.

With the rise in the defection, the opposition parties, largely National Conference (NC) and PDP, have been making a scathing attack on the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) accusing it of supporting JKPC and JKAP in strengthening their base by making use of government machinery and forcing politicians to join them. The  accusations denied by all the three parties.

In a debate on The Kashmir Walla on Saturday representatives of  NC BJP, JKAP, JKPC, JKPDP talked about in detail about the reasons behind the defection.

During the debate, TKW tried to understand the reason behind switching political parties from JKPDP leader Showkat Daing, who after being associated with the PDP joined BJP for nearly four years before he returned to the PDP.

“I did not change my political party. I contested election in 2009 independently and became part of the BJP to contest [DDC election] after the Prime Minister raised the slogan of Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas. This slogan attracted me to join the party. I got 10,000  votes and it is a place where the BJP never could manage more than 2,500 votes. 

“I had no idea that I could get such a support despite 95 percent voters being from Muslim community. But while being in the party I could not find anything like Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas and in the BJP it is necessary to be associated with the organization behind its back,” Daing said while referring to Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).

Kavinder Gupta, former deputy chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir and BJP leader, while responding to Daing said that “he may have different opinion”  and started counting the initiatives taken by the government in the past years including, anti- Covid vaccination, financial support to Kissans (farmers), development projects etc.

“Some people want BJP to quit the country and for that Kissan Andolan is going on and people like Mia Khalifa and Greta Thunberg issued a toolkit to show to the world that there is a crisis in India,” Gupta said.

In February, Greta Thunberg, a climate-activist and Mia Khalifa were accused of uploading a toolkit on social media to extend support to the farmers protesting in India. The issue snowballed into a major controversy as it was said that the “creation of toolkit” was a “global conspiracy to defame” India. Farmers in India have been protesting since August 2020 demanding revocation of three Farm laws passed by the Centre government last year.

“I have been associated with the (BJP) ideology since I was 13 years old and was jailed for 13 months when Indra Gandhi announced an emergency in the country in 1975. We had no idea that we would form a government someday and those who are changing parties these days are chasing power,” Gupta said. “They see politics as a money machine. It depends on people  and one cannot attack any party in this.”

On the allegations of the Government of India (GoI) supporting certain parties in the region to grow, Gupta said that given the situation political parties in the country grow and deteriorate. 

“In J-K especially political parties come up  and vanish. Did not people leave JKNC and Congress to join JKPDP. Did BJP form PDP?” he asked.

“Why do ministers with Mehbooba Mufti leave her party and are now in the Apni Party. It might be because they may have found that with their (PDP) ideology we cannot move forward,” Gupta said.

Last month JKNC provincial President Davendra Singh Rana and Surjit Sing Salathia joined BJP, but Gupta avoided the questions asked about their joining despite being asked repeatedly.  

Muntazir Mohi-ud-din, the state secretary JKAP, said, “the party came into existence at the time when there was no one to stand for people  and some like minded people assembled and decided to talk to the government in centre to have deliberations with them over the decision taken on 5 August 2019.”

“We met the Prime Minister of India and the Home Minister of India to secure jobs and land for the people of Jammu and Kashmir. We demanded restoration of Article 370, 35A. The state assembly was intact and Altaf Sb – founder of JKAP – was sacked. Similarly, several leaders associated with JKPDP met delegations and politicians from the Centre government, many of them were sacked,” he said.

JKPDP chief Mehbooba Mufti has been continuously accusing BJP of using government machinery to break her party. 

In a question about politicians leaving the PDP, because of its  weak ground  position, Showkat Daing blamed the BJP for playing defective politics in the region.

“I know the BJP better than anyone else as I have spent 4 years there with heart and soul.” 

Denying all the developmental slogans of BJP in J-K post 5 August, Daing said there are good in the BJP but they follow an ideology  of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) – and anyone who is associated with the ideology is powerful. 

“By leaving PDP the party is not going to be weak. This is a revolution and we will fight for the restoration of the rights of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. Some people have left the party and in future you will see how many will join the party. Mehbooba Mufti Ji is an iron lady and is very clear with her ideas,” Daing said.

Former Minister and JKNC leader Syed Ruhullah Mehdi who is at loggerheads with the party over stand on the decision taken on 5 August 2019 while commenting regarding the change of parties by politicians during the debate said that it is very unfortunate that after abrogation of the special status of J-K, political parties are still chasing the power.

 “It is very simple. They are chasing the power, they are chasing the means to power. It is unfortunate that despite the August 5 decision our priorities are election, and parties. Politicians are changing parties in view of the election prospectus” Mehdi said.

“I don’t know how true it is but the way it is happening it seems like the reality that those politicians who are involved in some possible corruption have been switching towards parties who are presumed to be close to the regime in Delhi. Attempts are being made to divide the opinion in Kashmir and that is not seen in Jammu division. Political parties are being divided and for that government institutions are being used,” Mehdi said.

He said that whatever was being done in the region is not in favor of the people of Jammu and Kashmir while “our main focus should have been restoration of whatever was taken on 5 August 2019 but unfortunately for pity things we are changing parties.”

Earlier a Delhi based newspaper in its “exclusive reportage” said that Mehdi was going to join BJP along with some other politicians. The news was outrightly rejected by Mehdi and the story was taken down by the organisation after Mehdi wrote to top authorities about the “misreporting”. 

After the  abrogation of the Article 370, People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) was formed  meant for restoration of the special status of Jammu and Kashmir. 

The amalgam was formed a year later after senior politicians like Mehbooba Mufti, Dr Farooq Abdullah, Sajad Lone, Omar Abdullah were released from the detention.

The primary constituents of the amalgam were JKNC, JKPDP, JKPC, Jammu Kashmir Peoples Movement (JKPM), Awami National Conference (ANC). However, in January this year JKPC left the amalgam months after the amalgam contested District Development Council (DDC) elections jointly over “breach of trust”.

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