Between the devil and the deep sea

IN Opinion | 01/01/1900

Between the devil and the deep sea 



Leader writers, their foreheads creased with annoyance that Madam had not taken their advice and let Mr Sayeed be, booed.



You don`t say!

Darius Nakhoonwala


The choice between ensuring the advancement of the party and the long term interests of the country, in spite of the apparent clarity of the answer - country, naturally, stupid - is a no-brainer. Actually, it is always the party first.

So it wasn`t very surprising that  Sonia Gandhi, Congress president, decided to tip Mufti Mohammad Sayeed out of his chief ministerial chair and place her very own Gulam Nabi Azad in it. The deal had been agreed upon three years ago, that at the end of October 2005, a transfer of power would take place.

Many leader writers, their foreheads creased with annoyance that Madam had not taken their advice and let Mr Sayeed be, booed like ladies at a jagran, softly but viciously. The Telegraph was the most ladylike of them all.

"This decision is wrong for more reasons than one. First, it comes after some dithering, which is extremely unfair on Mr Sayeed. Second, it removes a chief minister who had established a good track record. Third, the final decision follows not from reasons of good governance but to satisfy the interests of the party." The paper said that Mr Sayeed had governed well, brought stability, earned the support and goodwill of the Kashmiris. "By the logic of good governance, it seemed wise not to change horses mid-course."

It might have done better to have asked how Ms Gandhi could allow as many as 15 Congress MLAs to desert the party and join Mr Sayeed or whether an earthquake is reason enough to jettison an agreement made in good faith. Or, it could have asked: if Ms Gandhi had listened to it, what would the Congress have told the people of Jammu?

"By placing party above governance, Ms Gandhi is, in fact, taking a leaf out of the book of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) in West Bengal. There the distinction between party and government has become blurred… Ms Gandhi`s decision will harm Kashmir and eventually India . If she wants to remain India`s numero uno, she will have to rethink her priorities with regard to the party and the government, as well as the party and the nation."

Strong words that needed a counter, which was was left to the UPA`s mouthpiece, The Hindu. It said the right things but, as is usual these days, for the wrong reasons. "`Historic` is a word devalued by its indiscriminate use…yet, no other term describes Ghulam Nabi Azad`s choice as Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir." Hmmm… if so, history has acquired a new meaning.

Why? "Because, after decades of political life driven by deals concluded in New Delhi, the leadership of Jammu and Kashmir has been decided by the balance of democratic forces within the State." It even endorsed the rebellion by Congressmen. "Historically, New Delhi premised its project of governance in Jammu and Kashmir on figures as DIVerse as Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, G.M. Sadiq, Mir Qasim and Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad… who were seen as corporeal manifestations of the State`s relationship with the Union of India. But this change it said is "evidence, if more was needed, of the fundamental ways in which the politics of the State has been transfigured in recent years."

I would have thought there is no change at all - politicians like power and if they think they will not get it, they will go where they can.

The Indian Express, which last week had argued for the status quo, for once accepted defeat with good grace.  After making a token genuflection towards its earlier stand that "Sonia Gandhi was being given a second jab at something that would only be called statesmanship," and implying that she had botched it, it went on to dwell on the "mammoth challenges await J&K`s new chief minister. His will be the task to ensure that the increasingly sure-footed peace process between India and Pakistan receives sagacious support from the government in Srinagar. He must build upon the acknowledged successes of Mufti`s government".

The Pioneer was barely able to conceal its wish to gloat. It noted that this was the first time someone from Jammu (that is the Hindus, even though Gulam Nabi Azad is a Muslim) was going to be in charge and that this would be resented by the people of the Valley, which is a euphemism for Muslims. So, "while hostility in the Valley may not surface in the immediate future, Mr Azad will have to do a fine balancing act and be mindful of stepping on sensitivities." In other words, watch your back, old boy.

Then it called the decision to transfer power unfortunate. "Local Congress leaders and legislators, desperate for the loaves and fishes of office, refused to look at the big picture and insisted on an immediate transfer of power by November 2. No less unfortunate is Ms Gandhi`s caving in to the exigencies of local politics… Mr Ghulam Nabi Azad must prove that he can perform as well, if not better, than Mufti Mohammed Sayeed."  


The Hindustan Times was in favour of the change, and most others, like the Pioneer, could not decide.






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