NEW DELHI: The Modi government’s decision to undo J&K’s “special status”early in its second term seems intended to ride the momentum of a back-to-backLok Sabhamajority.
ScrappingArticle 370, or making it ineffective as the legislation in Parliament seeks, has been central to BJP’s political beliefs since its Jana Sangh days, and the current situation couldn’t be more opportune to translate its goal into reality, with the opposition reeling under its poll rout.
Top government sources said the experience of Modi’s first term when he had to encounter intense “obstructionism”, especially towards the later phase of the innings, served as a cautionary tale about the pitfalls of leaving it late.
They dismissed suggestions that the fast-changing geostrategic dynamic in Afghanistan, with Pakistan seeking to capitalise on US President Trump’s plan to take his troops out and his offer to mediate on Kashmir, influenced the timing.
The Modi government had also contemplated the move during its last term, but made no progress. It was revived after the 2019 victory, with BJP chiefAmit Shahvigorously piloting it as home minister.
Opposition got little time to regroup after talaq jolt
The BJP brain trust has moved quickly to use the numbers turning its way inRajya Sabhaas several regional parties broke ranks with the opposition to either back the Presidential Order hollowing out the core of Article 370 and scrapping Article 35A, or stage a walkout that helped the government score what was in the end a facile win in the upper House.
The lack of animation in the discussion, barring a few speakers, indicated the government’s assessment that the breakthrough moment was at hand had proved accurate. Already weakened by passage of the triple talaq bill, the opposition was unable to withstand the pressure to fall in line on a “nationalist” cause with strong popular underpinnings.
Desertion of TDP, AAP and SP increased support for the legislation outside NDA while walkouts by TMC, NDA partner JD(U) and AIADMK sealed the matter in favour of the government. There has been a strong view in BJP that it is better to press ahead with politically contentious agenda right away rather than risk unforeseen domestic or international factors emerging later in the term.
More importantly, the disarray in Congress and reverses suffered by vocal anti-BJP parties like TMC, TDP and Left provided a rare chance to breach what had been a politically no-go zone for decades.
Pakistan’s moves to step up violence in J&K, seen to flow from US PresidentDonald Trumpreaching out to Islamabad ahead of a drawdown of troops in Afghanistan, were also a key factor. These loomed as a significant spoiler as Pakistan clearly intended to use its “utility” in attempts to reach a settlement with the Taliban to once again pressure India to restart talks on bilateral matters including Kashmir.
If the plans to rework equations in Afghanistan had gathered momentum, the elbow room in J&K would shrink and Pakistan, meanwhile, would be tempted to step up violence, looking to pull India into a strong retaliation and bring Kashmir under adverse international limelight. The decision to undo the heart of Article 370, which has for long helped stoke the view that J&K’s accession was “disputed”, changes the game.
The soon-to-be altered status of J&K is the polar opposite to the calls for plebiscite raised by secessionists and backed by Pakistan. The reconfiguration of the state as an UT makes it amply clear that it is a part of India and unequivocally rules out any negotiation over its merger in any discussion with Pakistan.
In Video:Article 370 to be revoked: Watch Amit Shah’s full speech