The BJP’s ‘Sankalp Patra’, released on Monday by the Prime Minister, is an aggressive continuation of its strategic vision, economic policies and social programmes. The people have experienced over the past five years how the NDA Government at the Centre has dealt with issues such as black money, energising the economy, agrarian distress and social empowerment. If the promises made in the vision for the future, which extends up to 2047, seem plausible to the people, they will obviously endorse them. Obtaining an understanding of the BJP’s ‘achievements’ over the past years, and how the promises for the future fit into a doctrinal continuity, is a task best left to the experts. As voters, individuals will need to go by whether they were benefited in any way by what has been done till date. The effort will be made to explain how the governance was good or bad for them, depending on who is doing the convincing, but the final assessment will remain that of the person pressing the EVM button.
At the same time, though, the party’s stated commitment to abrogation of Articles 371 and 35 (A) is a choice offered to the voter for the future. It is undoubtedly a contentious subject bound to raise the hackles of many. Already, sundry politicians from J&K are breathing fire and fury, as it is without a doubt their worst nightmare coming true. At the same time, though, it does offer a way to end a problem that has plagued India for a long time, with no resolution in sight if the conventional way continues to be adopted. For some constitutionalists, Article 370 is the mechanism by which J&K is linked to India and its abrogation would lead to (technical) ‘Azadi’, while others contend it is just a part of the Constitution that is by no means essential and subject to the will of the people.
There is no doubt that the people of the state have suffered considerably due to the ambiguity it creates. A resident of the state suffers from a multiple-personality disorder that comes from fractured loyalties. He (because women’s rights are limited) is required to be loyal to India, but also J&K, separately, then to the cause of ‘Azadi’, or the choice of being Pakistani and, of course, the political party or (separatist) group that advocates one of these or a particular mix of them. And, over the years, it has all become synonymous with their Muslim identity, which is enforced traditionally with the AK-47.
‘Tis the season for ending such ambiguities! Though not exactly comparable, it happened with Crimea, is ongoing in Israel, maybe it is time for India to assert its constitutional sovereignty. The people have now been given an opportunity to decide on this.