By Anushka Mittal
Edited by Liz Maria Kuriakose, Associate Editor, The Indian Economist
This phrase was used by Narendra Modi, the 15th PM of India to explain the expanse of India and thus his electorate. He delivered this speech on 16th May at Vadodara, Gujarat where he had supposedly spent just 50 minutes to campaign (after filing his nomination papers). He won there by a whopping 5.7 lakh votes, completely and legitimately outshining his opponents.
Oddly (and amazingly enough) no media house till date has raked an issue out of his victory speech. The moment I heard this statement my immediate reaction was not one of condemning or supporting this ‘separatist’ remark. I realised that he had given ample fodder and fuel to the media. This remark has myriad and varied undertones to it. No opposition raised its voice. There weren’t even voices from Kashmir or anywhere else. A silent ignorance? Is this the calm before a storm? I spoke about this particular statement to some people, which many feigned ignorance. One said that excluding Kashmir means that Modi will fulfil the promise in the BJP manifesto by removing Article 370 from J&K and bring it back within the folds of India completely. Another said that he was just pointing out that he didn’t get enough votes in J&K. This is a fallacious claim. As it happens, Modi got 3 seats in J&K and a single seat in Tamil Nadu. Another explanation that comes to mind is BJP’s ‘secular’ credentials which might make India to partake with Kashmir in exchange for “peace” with Pakistan. Given Modi’s strong foreign policy stand, this doesn’t seem too unlikely. He will definitely not tolerate ceasefire violations and terrorism. So what will Pakistan demand in lieu of this? If it is Kashmir, then has Modi pre-emptively concluded the deal and sealed the fate by cutting India’s head?
There are 2 glaring issues that emerge after this statement.
• The omnipresent silence from all circles
• The future of Kashmir as a contractual consideration
However this election has been a stoic example of direct democracy. It is quite evident that this time Modi was voted to power and not just the BJP.
If Modi’s statement was ominous of the agenda of removal of Article 370 then the implications must be understood. His statement seems a very confident and conclusive one, one that needs to be analysed to understand Modi 2.0
Article 370 was imposed on the state of Jammu and Kashmir on 17 October 1949. It was effectively done to avoid a UN mandated plebiscite. This plebiscite under the auspices of the UN was part of the Resolution of the United Nations Commission on India and Pakistan. Basically, India had to go to the lengths of imposition of Article 370 to avoid secession of the territory of J & K to Pakistan. Hina Rabbani Khar, in an interview to Karan Thapar said that it is in the interest of Pakistan to solve the Kashmir issue, and rightly so. Would a plebiscite ensue into handing over of the territory of Kashmir to Pakistan? The pre-requisites of a UN plebiscite are complete disarmament of the region. Once the Pakistani militants are removed from the Northern parts, the Indian Army shall follow suit. The fate of the region will be determined by a two-step process. It would be initiated by physical peace and would be followed by a conclusive transfer. Analysing the statement of Khar, one might think that the plebiscite would lead to a cross border transfer. Let us crudely and ‘communally’ assume that the people of the Valley and Kashmiris vote to be a part of Pakistan and the people of Jammu and Ladakh, to be a part of India. According to the electorate size in these areas, the state of J & K will become a part of Pakistan by a margin of 2, 60,474 votes. This is a good enough differential if the crude assumption is correct.
Abrogation of Article 370 has always been part of the BJP manifesto. It has a majority with 282 seats and a constitutional amendment will not be a difficult task. However it might change the representation of states in Parliament which are part of the proviso to Article 368 of the Constitution (amending Article). It requires a majority of 2/3 members in either House. Since the NDA is short of 30 seats for the said mark, abrogation of Article 370 and amendment to the Constitution are safely prevented.
Modi altered a long standing alliteration (Kashmir to Kanyakumari) but did not establish a very positive metaphor!