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The 2019 Election Season in India and its Meanings for J&K State

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It is election season in India, which means commentators anxiously analyzing and predicting events and expectations in the world’s bulkiest democracy of mind-boggling diversity and, increasingly, divergence. A season, also, when politicians trudge out platitudes without real debate about the crucial issues of state-building and nation-creating in India.

This season the BJP, officially, insists on its own translation of “secularism” rather than clearly acknowledge its implicit rejection of it. The Congress, unofficially, mutes its voice on minority rights, as it edges towards majority mollification. Politics [of conscience] is dead; long live politics. Similarly, in foreign policy, non-alignment remains at India’s core while phrases like strategies of “partnership” and “multi-laterality” flounder. Meanwhile, the world’s comity of states continues its search for a “new world order” following the collapse of the Cold War regime.

It is all uncharted ground and best left for expert commentators probing India’s electoral politics and its foreign policies.

It is equally difficult, arguably, to anticipate any fresh angles of discussion about the J&K state in the context of the Lok Sabha elections, apart from the old debates between electoral boycott and participation, and choosing between the dilemma of and the disregard for the dispute over the state. That said, this season is a pivotal one for us, so understanding its many dimensions is important.

There are three dimensions to understanding the meaning of the Indian election season for Kashmir: namely, the local (Srinagar-New Delhi) dimension, the regional (South Asian) dimension, and the international (global) dimension.

The Local Dimension – red-herrings and speculation

On the local front, there are the usual red-herrings; some old and some new. The BJP manifesto reiterates its resolve to abrogate Article 370 and to annul Article 35A. While both promises, strictly speaking, are not new terrain, the use of the words “abrogate” and “annul” reveal a lethal nuance in understanding that must be counteracted on. In confirmation of that dangerous trajectory, the BJP Government deferred the state’s assembly elections and extended President’s Rule until after the Lok Sabha elections. Both actions are meant to hold on to the assumed stranglehold of the BJP at the center in Kashmir. Yet another issue is the unprecedented highway closure for two days of the........

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