J&K Legislative Council polls: BJP support for pro-Geelani Dodha intriguing
by Hari Om on 06 Mar 2013 3 Comments

It is now almost clear that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has decided to support the candidature of Shuban Krishan Dodha for the Legislative Council elections in Jammu & Kashmir, slated for March 7.


The Kashmir-based People’s Democratic Front (PDF), which is known for its hostile attitude towards India and has a couple of militants-turned-politicians in the Legislative Assembly, and the main opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP), which along with the ruling National Conference has been demanding withdrawal of all the central laws and institutions from the state, have sponsored this Delhi-based chartered accountant.


Dodha is contesting as an independent candidate as per a meticulously evolved strategy aimed at fooling the BJP and garnering its support so that this pro-separatist Kashmiri Hindu makes it to the legislative council and strengthens the hands of the anti-India forces. Kashmiri separatists, including the leadership of the NC, PDP and PDF, want persons like Dodha, who would speak their language and use the legislature forum to create an impression in and outside India that Kashmiri Hindus are part and parcel of the ongoing secessionist movement in certain parts of Kashmir. Such persons help the separatists to project that theirs is a “secular and democratic movement which is being suppressed by New Delhi unleashing a senseless reign of brutalities”. 


Earlier, the official BJP, which has four MLAs, had decided to abstain from the legislative council elections and gave everyone to understand that the party had “no stakes” in the upcoming legislative council elections; indeed, that it’s participation in the elections would send a “wrong signal” to its constituency in the state. This was a politically wise decision considering the fact that all the candidates in the fray belonged to the Congress party, the pro-autonomy NC, the pro-self-rule PDP and the pro-separatist PDF.


The BJP took the decision not to vote in the legislative council elections after Dodha had announced his candidature for one of three Kashmir seats. It was obvious that the BJP leadership had taken into consideration the credentials of Dodha as well as the sentiments of its own constituency which the party had outraged in 2009, 2010 and 2011 by resorting to cross-voting and ensuring the victory of the Congress and National Conference candidates to the legislative council.


One of the BJP MLAs had also voted for the NC candidate (Farooq Abdullah) in the 2009 Rajya Sabha elections, which, too, had angered its core constituency and supporters across Jammu province. The people had bemoaned that “they voted for a party which subverted the mandate they had given to it for pecuniary gains and other benefits and let down and humiliated them”. In fact, there was general consensus among the supporters of the BJP that “they committed a grave political blunder by voting for the BJP believing that they would go to the Assembly, defend and promote the Jammu cause, controvert the baneful influence of the Kashmiri leadership and advance the national interest in the state”. (In 2011, the BJP expelled 7 out of 11 MLAs for violating the party whip and voting for the NC and Congress candidates.)


What are Dodha’s credentials? He masquerades as a Kashmiri Hindu and supports the separatist cause. He is a fan of pro-Pakistan APHC (G) chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani and his ilk. He has given interviews in the very recent past to a Kashmir-based English language daily which is supportive of separatists, including Geelani, and highly critical of New Delhi. Besides, like Jawaharlal Nehru University’s former Professor Amitabh Mattoo and Delhi-based PDP spokesperson Dr Samir Koul, Dodha also considers the ongoing secessionist movement in Kashmir as a genuinely secular movement. 


For this reason, internally-displaced Kashmiri Hindus who accuse New Delhi of “abandoning the nationalist constituency in the state” and pandering to Kashmiri secessionists and fanatics, and demand bifurcation of Kashmir and establishment of a separate homeland within the Valley with Union Territory status, consider Dodha “more harmful for the community”.


Apart from hobnobbing with known undesirable elements in Kashmir, Dodha “maintains the accounts of Kashmiri separatists,” a fact that further indicates his closeness to the anti-India camp.


The support of the PDF and PDP for the candidature of Dodha is quite understandable. But why should the BJP take a complete U-turn and swing solidly behind Dodha, who never even approached the BJP before filing his nomination papers?


Dodha and his supporters approached the BJP for support only after his candidature was approved and supported by the PDF and PDP and only after he filed his nomination papers. There are reasons to believe that there were certain elements within the BJP itself who misguided and hoodwinked the BJP leadership by suggesting that Dodha was a well-wisher of internally-displaced Kashmiri Hindus and that the persecuted and hounded out community would see Dodha as their representative in the law-making body.


Or should one take the U-turn to mean that the BJP and the PDP have decided to work in unison in the State?  


The BJP appears not to have learned any lesson from its past mistakes which made its constituency hold itself aloof from it or distance itself from it after its MLAs cross-voted on an unprecedented scale. Its decision to support this PDP and PDF-supported candidate is certain to further alienate its core constituency. The BJP in J&K is already very weak and is being described as an extension of the NC. (The BJP and NC shared power for more than two years during the Vajpayee regime.) Seven of its 11 MLAs have already been thrown out of the party for voting for the NC and Congress candidates and their leader has already stated that they are free to vote for any candidate.


It was time for the official BJP to show political maturity by holding itself aloof from the legislative council elections. Such a strategy even at this late stage would help it retrieve some of its lost political space. By making a complete U-turn under pressure from forces working behind the curtain and within the party and deciding to vote for Dodha, the BJP has committed a grave political blunder.


There is still time for the BJP to reconsider its decision and save itself from further embarrassment by displaying political sagacity and identifying itself with the people’s sentiments. Not to make a wise retreat, and to stick to its ill-advised stand on Dodha would only provide additional opportunity to its critics to beat it right and left and contemptuously dub it as a pro-PDP and pro-self-rule party. The BJP has to behave like an effective and responsible opposition and establish that it is a party with a difference committed to defeating the negative and regressive forces and protecting the territorial integrity of India.      

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