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SAEED NAQVI
SAEED'S DIARY

Saeed Naqvi is a Distinguished Fellow at the Observer Research Foundation and a senior journalist.

Modi faces a challenge in Kashmir

principal reason for Narendra Modi being swept to power in May was disgust with Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Manmohan Singh — indecisive, short on ideas, bereft of charisma and supervising a government of scams. In a House of 543, the Congress had 209 seats. The shortfall of 63 was made up by coalition partners, who made money hand over fist. Manmohan Singh was a fine Finance Minister, but as Prime Minister, had a problem of being deferential to the Gandhis to the point of being obsequious. He looked more ineffective than he was. This collective anti incumbency was harvested by Modi.

Big business along with their multinational linkages mounted a media campaign larger than any in electoral history; by some estimates even bigger than the Barack Obama campaign. This campaign too found the adage apt: with opponents like the Congress, who needs friends? For the first time in decades, a single party government came to power. Without any alteration that same defunct Congress is being sought to be resurrected.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is committed to Hindu nationalism. This does strike a chord with a majority of Hindus. But the storm troopers who helped bring BJP to power were from ultra Hindutva groups like the RSS and the VHP. These extremist groups read the mandate which brought Modi to power according to their exclusive lights. They went on a rampage demanding "ghar wapsi" or reconversion of Muslims and Christians to Hinduism. Hindu women must produce five children to boost population; they must resist an inexplicable quantity called "love jihad". They went to absurd lengths crediting ancient India with every conceivable scientific invention. They provoked communal riots; barged into parties admonishing youngsters against dancing and drinking beer.

By their excesses, they ended up embarrassing the majority of Hindus along with other Indians. This when that very helpful tailwind, the anti incumbency against Sonia, Rahul and Manmohan Singh had disappeared and prices of food had risen.

Came a series of byelections in UP, Bihar, Jharkhand. The Modi magic appeared not to be working. Then came the elections to the Delhi Assembly. On a platform against corruption and for social justice the Aam Aadmi Party trounced the BJP.

And now, the riveting development, the one that will define Narendra Modi's innings, is the power sharing government in Kashmir. This has opened up the possibility of improved relations with Pakistan, which in turn will bring down the communal temperature, an enabling precondition for accelerated economic growth. The Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir is the most astute leader of the People's Democratic Party, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed. He has vast experience of Delhi too where he has served as the Union Home Minister. He is familiar with all the caverns of intrigue on the Delhi, Srinagar, Islamabad axis.

That the BJP and the PDP have joined hands in Kashmir against the backdrop is laden with possibilities. Summer is round the corner. A bumper season to boost tourism in the most magnificent parts of the state right up to the Gurez valley is possible in conditions of peace. It will open up hearts and minds.

 
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