What an election!

Sushil Pandit Wednesday 12th June 2019 06:34 EDT

2019 poll-results defied, arguably, all the known past precedents in the Indian electorate’s behaviour. After all, how else does one explain BJP’s 100% score in a State like Rajasthan where they lost their government barely 5 months back? Or, for that matter, Madhya Pradesh, where they won all but one seat after a similar loss, at the same time, as Rajasthan. Gujarat too delivered a perfect 100%. Here, in the December of 2017, the BJP failed to reach even 100 seats out of a total of 182. This happened for the first time since they started ruling the State about 25 years ago.

Laloo’s RJD couldn’t win a single seat in Bihar. Each one of the former Chief Ministers of Congress lost the Lok Sabha polls from their respective states. The principal challenger, Rahul Gandhi, lost in his family bastion of Amethi. Several of the other sons and the scions too kept him company by losing from their respective pocket boroughs.

Seemingly invincible caste-coalitions collapsed. The rout was such that the grand-old-party couldn’t win a single seat in 17 of all the States and Union Territories. Second time, in a row, the Congress was restricted to under 20% vote-share and less than 10% of the seats in Lok Sabha, depriving it, yet again, of even the office of the Leader of Opposition.

Election-results in Kashmir were no less spectacular. For the first time, in Jammu, Udhampur and Ladakh, Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) of the Muftis and National Conference (NC) of the Abdullahs decided to leave the field for the Congress to take on the BJP in a direct contest. The idea was to keep the 35-40% Muslim vote, en bloc, in the kitty of Congress. Congress went a step further and fielded prominent Hindu candidates to seriously divide the Hindu vote. From Udhampur, it fielded Vikramaditya Singh, son of the former Regent Karan Singh, and a former Member Legislative Council (MLC). From Jammu, Congress chose Raman Bhalla, a popular former Member Legislative Assembly (MLA). Yet, both of them lost to BJP’s sitting MPs, Dr. Jitendra Singh and Jugal Kishor Sharma, respectively, by over 300,000 votes each. Likewise, in Ladakh, BJP’s Jamyang Namgyal won by almost 11,000 votes. Last election, the BJP scraped through with barely 36 votes.

Unlike the seats in Jammu and Ladakh regions, the 3 seats in the Valley went through a churn. PDP not only lost all the 3 seats, it didn’t even end a runner-up in 2 of those – Anantnag and Baramula. Mehbooba Mufti herself lost miserably to a debutant from NC – Husnain Masoodi – and the Congress candidate – Gulam Ahmed Mir.

The big picture is even more stunning. At 46% vote-share, the BJP polled more votes than the Congress, NC and PDP put together. It is a huge jump over their vote-share of 34% in 2014. This is despite huge misgivings Jammu and Ladakh region had about the BJP, for what they did with the unprecedented mandate of 2014. BJP not only reneged on the promise of repealing Articles 370 and 35A of the Indian Constitution, by committing to their preservation in their ‘Agenda for Alliance’ with the PDP, betraying the solemn trust to defend the interests of Jammu from the Valley centric hegemons.

But, all that was forgiven for 3 reasons.

Post Balakot air-strikes, there was a palpable national consensus for giving Modi the second term in office, to address all the unfulfilled promises.

Congress discredited itself by openly aligning with the PDP and NC to defeat Modi. It didn’t just stop at that. Congress, as a quid pro quo, formally committed itself to safeguarding Articles 370 and 35A, reviewing AFSPA and diluting the presence of security forces deployed in Kashmir, in their manifesto.

There is a widespread hope among the supporters of the BJP that Modi might, after all, deliver on his promise to undo the 2 controversial articles in the Constitution. With Amit Shah taking over the Home Portfolio, even the sceptics begin to harbour such hopes.

First of all, briefly, the reasons why these provisions must not be a part of our Constitution:

Articles 370 and 35A create a special dispensation on the territory of India for a State just because it has a Muslim majority. Such a reason is an anathema to the secular democracy we call ourselves. It legitimises the two-nation theory that was the cause of our painful partition in 1947.

Such a dispensation not only circumcises the jurisdiction of the Parliament but also creates such J&K specific exceptions and modifications in our Constitution which are in violation of its basic features. Both are a travesty and cannot be sustained.

Our Constitution provides a due process for the introduction of new laws and the amendment of existing laws. The procedure followed to bring about Article 35A blatantly violated that process. The sheer stealth with which it was kept away from even the knowledge of the Parliament, leave aside its scrutiny and approval, turns it into a fraud enacted on our Constitution

These provisions, ostensibly to grant autonomy, have, in fact, engendered a false sense of sovereignty leading to separatism and secessionism. Successive governments in the State have misused these provisions to discriminate against several groups of its own residents and the citizens in the rest of India, most often, entirely on communal considerations but also on gender and caste. This has led to grave injustices, violating even the basic human rights.

Often different legal hurdles are cited as the reason why Articles 370 and 35A can’t be repealed. These are nothing but untenable exaggerations that survive due to ignorance and a lack of scrutiny, if not vested interests too, on the part of those who make such arguments.

1)It is now a settled fact that both, 370 and 35A were NOT the condition prerequisites for the accession of J&K to India. A mere look at the chronology of the events is sufficient to nail that one. Accession took place on October 26, 1947. The Article 370 was drafted sometime in November 1949 and came into effect when the Constitution was promulgated on January 26, 1950. As regards the Article 35A, it came into effect through an obscure Presidential promulgation as late as on June 14, 1954. Its validity has been challenged and is, currently, under the scrutiny of the Supreme Court.

2)Article 370 was meant to be a “temporary and transient” provision in our Constitution. A plain reading of its text will bear that out. Jurists aver that the Constituent Assembly of J&K, before the conclusion of its term, should have, formally, recommended its removal to the President. This omission then has created such an anomaly that it survives even today. Ordinarily, a mere Presidential proclamation notifying its removal is sufficient to get rid of it. Among the several tough issues ducked by the first Modi Sarkar, this one is among the top, if not the top-most. A massive mandate for the second Modi Sarkar is the measure of hope that such issues will be dealt with, resolutely, here and now.

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