When Home Minister Amit Shah announced the scrapping of Article 370 on the floor of the Lok Sabha on Monday, there were many who were not surprised. Not because the Centre had made unprecedented arrangements in the valley ahead of the move, but because Shah was brought to the ministry precisely to implement the core agenda of the BJP.
Since the day he assumed office, Shah has been on the job – from implementation of NRC to evict illegal Bangladeshis to Triple Talaq and further toughening of the anti-terror law.
Whether it was the 2014 verdict or the 2019 encore, while the political analysts and observers were attributing it to Vikas (development) and national security, the party leadership led by Narendra Modi were unambiguous in their understanding that the mandate was equally for ‘Vichar’ or ideology.
The people of India, they believed, had voted for a strong leadership and a strong India and for the core agenda of the saffron party including scrapping of Article 370, implementation of the Uniform Civil Code & of course, the construction of the Ram temple at Ayodhya.
The Time Was Ripe
And there could not have been a more opportune moment than this. A terribly bruised and divided opposition unable to recover from the Lok Sabha defeat, a thoroughly weakened Pakistan, a favourable global community and a honeymoon period back home. The Modi-Shah duo knew very well that in the days to come, the economy may turn out to be an Achilles heel with even the RSS backed Swadeshi Jagran Manch and Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh slowly upping their arms on issues including external borrowings and Labour reforms. The opposition too may start tying the loose ends as some of the state Assemblies are headed for polls. In Kashmir, thanks to a pro active policy, militancy is under control and the regional political parties have become a discredited lot.
With a demoralized opposition unable to check migrations to the ruling party, which has fast gained upper hand even in the upper House, the time was ripe to strike, the master strategists knew too well. NSA Ajit Doval was there to lend his strategic mind and hand in this political surgical strike too, post Uri and Balakot.
Then there was the core constituency represented by the mother organization, the RSS, which has been consistently keeping up the momentum. Silently but steadily, away from the probing eyes of the media, Sangh outfits such as Jammu and Kashmir Study Centre (JKSC) led by the organisation’s All India Publicity Head, Prachar Pramukh, Arun Kumar, has been engaged in moulding a massive public opinion in favour of scrapping Article 370 through its publications, seminars and workshops in every nook and corner of the country.
Modi and Shah also had no illusions about an elusive national consensus on the issue nor about a day when the Kashmiri Muslims or political parties themselves would come forward and demand abolition of the transitory provision. They knew they had a strong case, supportive legal and constitutional provisions as also the requisite strength in Parliament.
Of course, they also wanted their place under the sun, to leave behind a legacy that they rectified the ‘historic blunder’ committed by Pandit Nehru in the eyes of millions of their followers and to live up to the image of being the true inheritors of the legacy of another Gujarat stalwart, Sardar Patel, who had reservations about Nehru’s Kashmir policy as also believed in flexing the muscles when required whether it be the police action in Hyderabad or in Junagarh. Last but not the least, it was also about realizing the unfulfilled dream of the party’s founder and its martyr for the cause of fully integrating Kashmir with the rest of the country late Shyama Prasad Mukherjee of ‘Ek Vidhan and Ek Nishan’ (one Constitution and one Emblem).
Further, for the first time, BJP’s manifesto for 2019 had categorically stated it was "committed to annulling Article 35A" of the Constitution of India as the provision is "discriminatory against non-permanent residents and women .. . Thus, it was also about a poll promise redeemed.
Notwithstanding the vociferous protests by some opposition leaders on the floor of the house, the vertical split in the Congress party including resignation by the party Chief Whip in Rajya Sabha and the support extended by many regional parties to the move only showed a growing realization that the most blatant violations of human rights have been taking place in the State, under the cover of Article 35A of the Constitution and other enabling provisions of the controversial 1954 Presidential order.
Shah has taken Kashmir on an Expressway in which there is no U-turn though it remains to be seen how smooth the ride is going to be in the days to come.
In 1339, Shah Mir became the first Muslim ruler of Kashmir. Almost seven hundred years later, another Shah has turned it full circle.
KG Suresh is a senior journalist & former Director General, Indian Institute of Mass Communication.
First Published: IST