A fragmented verdict

The fiercely fought election in Jammu and Kashmir has thrown up a fragmented verdict that is not going to easily yield a government, in one of the most difficult places to govern in India. The performance of the BJP, the People’s Democratic Party, the National Conference and the Congress shows that the contest was truly a four-cornered one, and was not just about a polarisation between two parties. But the outcome suggests a polarisation on religious lines, between Hindus of the Jammu region who voted overwhelmingly for the BJP and Muslims of the Kashmir valley, who split their approval among the PDP, the NC and the Congress. Contradictory interpretations can be attributed to the outcome that would make the process of government-formation difficult. First, it was an outright disapproval of the NC government led by outgoing Chief Minister Omar Abdullah. Second, the popular approval of the BJP is the highest of all four contestants — it won 23 per cent of the votes polled. Third, the PDP, despite scoring lower than the BJP in terms of vote share, has won the highest number of seats, and has become eligible to be invited to form the government, going by precedents. Fourth, unless at least two parties come together a government in the State cannot be sustained, and not any two parties can now add up to a simple majority. For instance, the PDP and the Congress, the least hostile pair ideologically, do not have a combined strength of 44.

The situation, therefore, calls for an extraordinary level of wisdom, maturity and willingness on the part of all the four parties to place the national interest above partisan interests. If the BJP and the Central government that it leads are clear that it is not desirable to have Governor’s Rule in the sensitive State, several combinations are possible. The PDP has said it would explore the options without losing its credibility, to see whether it can form a government that can live up to the expectations of the people. The BJP has said all options — offering support to someone, taking support from someone and sitting in opposition — are open. The NC has admitted that it lost the mandate and would not be proactive in any government-formation efforts. The Congress has offered support to the PDP. Any combination that one can think of could be seen as going against the popular verdict or being opportunistic, or both. Therefore, the onus is on all four main parties, Sajjad Lone’s People’s Conference that has won two seats, and Independents, to work in tandem in the interests of the State, irrespective of where they are — in the government or in opposition — to meet the expectations of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. For they voted in large numbers in the hope of better governance and fewer troubles in their lives.

Our code of editorial values

This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Sep 26, 2022 11:43:21 am | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/A-fragmented-verdict/article59783828.ece