President’s Rule (Governor’s Rule in J&K) should be imposed only if there is a constitutional breakdown and, generally, resort should be taken to holding of early elections so that the people’s opinion may be ascertained. However, much too often and particularly in the times of Indira Gandhi, it was used to overturn popularly elected governments for the benefit of the ruling party at the Centre. The situation improved in this regard as the practice was condemned by all political forces in the country, and certain checks and balances were adopted after the SC’s ruling in the Bommai Case, and the Sarkaria Commission recommendations. Recently, the provision has been used sparingly and very rarely for political purposes.
As such, the ongoing Governor’s Rule in J&K comes under a shadow, with the latest decision on dissolving the House clearly indicating that it is politics being played by other means. The BJP is resolved to fly its flag in all parts of the country, but is thwarted in some states by the communal barriers against it. This has been mostly in the North Eastern states and J&K. (The video of Kamal Nath’s appeal for Muslim mobilisation against the party in MP is a case in point.) While in the North East it has used alliances with local parties to claim political space, a similar tie-up with the PDP in J&K could not advance, primarily because of the all-out escalation of terrorism by the Pakistanis. Mehbooba Mufti’s ambivalent stance on crucial issues forced the BJP to pull the carpet from under her.
The attempt was reportedly on to forge an alliance with Sajjan Lone of the J&K People’s Conference, in response to which the ‘mainstream’ parties, NC, PDP and Congress, began talks on similar lines. Any government formed of parties with a base primarily in Kashmir would have increased the divide with Jammu, which for the first time after Independence had shared equal political power only under the BJP-PDP coalition.
Ironically, a so called ‘secular’ party such as the Congress is comfortable with this communal divide in the state, and it is the ‘communal’ BJP that is working to find a voice not only for Jammu, but also the Kashmiri Pandits through their rehabilitation in the Valley. However, all this maneuvering has been prevented with the dissolution of the Assembly. The challenge, now, is to obtain a people’s mandate for their respective causes. It remains to be seen whether a stint of Governor’s Rule will change the conditions on the ground enough for the Centre to hold elections, or things will remain in limbo for even longer.