Uninspiring promises

Kashmir Times. Dated: 4/9/2019 11:59:04 PM

BJP’s manifesto, barring a sketchy list of multiple promises has an out and out Hindutva focus

If the Congress manifesto released over a week ago, despite its refreshing departure from routine, was something that failed to draw a road map showing the feasibility of its ambitious socio-economic ideas, the BJP manifesto released on Monday, other than its obsessive echo of national security, nationalism and Hindutva, is a complete eye-wash. Its belated arrival arouses curiosity whether the addition of slew of welfare programmes and sops for the under-privileged, without even a hurried reference of how these are to be fulfilled, was an after-thought in a bid to counter the Congress narrative which has caught the appeal of the masses to a great extent with its focal-point of NYAY. While the BJP manifesto reveals the BJP decision to come out more openly as a Hindutva force, it has sought to balance this ideological position with lofty promises for better economy, in an obvious bid to appeal to constituencies other than those mesmerized by right-wing politics. Among the list of promises are those that seek to double farmers’ income, ease the burden on the middle classes, investment of Rs 100 lakh crore in the infrastructure sector by 2024 and pucca houses for all till 2022. All these promises are welcome but the problem is not just the practicability of fulfilling these agendas but also how these have simply been squeezed into the manifesto for effect. Essentially, the BJP manifesto is pivoted around the same old rag tag of Ram temple, uniform civil code and Article 370, with much larger echoes than ever before. How these issues, particularly Article 370, are juxtaposed with national security discourse gives an indication of what the BJP would be aiming for if it is voted back to power. Such promises have been part of the BJP’s arsenal for long but during its five year long stint it could not go ahead with either the Ram temple promise or the Article 370 revocation, both of which are hazards to the Indian constitution and its democracy. However, the weakened fabric of secularism under the BJP rule since 2014, the cow vigilantism creating serious law and order issues and the chaos into which Kashmir has descended give an indication of the dangers the country would slip into if such promises become the centre-stage of governance.
The question of revoking Article 370 has been rightly opposed by all regional formations within Jammu and Kashmir and also by several parties at the national level and regional parties elsewhere. The need to protect this article is felt because of two prime reasons. First, that Article 370 which guarantees special status to Jammu and Kashmir is the sole constitutional link between the conflict ridden state and rest of the country; and by virtue of that it is irrevocable. To break that link is to lose constitutional and legal legitimacy over Kashmir. It is erroneous to construe that any revocation of Article 370 would amount to the complete integration of Jammu and Kashmir with India. Constitutionally, Article 370 will continue to remain a provisional agreement binding Jammu and Kashmir to the rest of the country because the accession to India signed by the Maharaja of Kashmir in October 1947 was meant to be provisional until the views of the people on the political future of the state, were fairly ascertained. That exercise has never taken place; thus this link between the disputed state and rest of India remains mired in subsequent political developments, ambiguities and interpretations. Secondly, in Kashmir, the issue of Article 370 is a red rag which will add to the existing levels of frustration and alienation of the masses. History of Kashmir demonstrates the directly proportional relation between the ultra-integrationist policies and the deteriorating security situation in Kashmir. Owing to an excessive muscular policy being pursued in Kashmir at present, militancy has been receiving an upshot in the arm. If Article 370 were to be tampered with, in all likelihood the pace of young men picking up arms and joining militant groups will hasten that pace and allow Pakistan to fish in the muddied waters of Kashmir far more easily. The BJP’s manifesto is a warning of its sinister designs in India, particularly with respect to Kashmir.



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