NEW DELHI: In a surprise move, Jammu and Kashmir Gov. Satya Pal Malik dissolved the local Assembly Wednesday night, paving the way for fresh elections in the troubled Indian state.
The dissolution came amid reports of a joint move by two mainstream political parties, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the National Conference (NC), to stake a claim to form a state government with support from the Congress Party.
The dissolution came immediately after PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti faxed a letter to Malik claiming the support of the NC and the Congress Party for the formation of a government. She claimed the support of 56 of the Assembly’s 87 members.
Shortly after that, Sajjad Lone, leader of the People’s Conference party, sent a letter to Malik staking a rival claim to form a government with the support of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which has 25 seats in the Assembly.
“Jammu and Kashmir needs a firm administration to deal with terrorism and not a combination of terror-friendly parties,” the BJP tweeted immediately after the dissolution.
“The best option in such a scenario is to go for fresh elections at the earliest. This Assembly cannot produce a stable government.”
NC leader Omar Abdullah criticized Malik for dissolving the Assembly, saying: “It can’t be a coincidence that within minutes of Mehbooba Mufti’s letter staking a claim, the order to dissolve the Assembly suddenly appears.” Abdullah added: “Justice has not been done to us.”
PDP spokesman Rafi Ahmad Mir told Arab News: “The decision to dissolve the Assembly is undemocratic.”
But Dr. Hina Bhat of the BJP told Arab News that “an unprincipled alliance” was “trying to come to power in (the state capital) Srinagar to inject uncertainty and delay the election. Let there be a fresh election so everything will be clear.”
Srinagar-based scholar Dr. Siddiqi Wahid told Arab News: “New Delhi is very serious about bringing in a Hindu-majority government in Srinagar. The dissolution is the first indicator of that.”
He added: “People in Kashmir have lost all sense of surprise at this kind of political maneuvering.”
Prof. Sheikh Showkat Hussain of the Central University of Kashmir told Arab News: “To say that this is a mockery of democracy would be an understatement.”
He said: “Already there’s a strong sense of alienation among people, and the insurgency is strengthening in Kashmir. When you launch this kind of onslaught on democracy, it triggers more alienation.”
He added: “The trust deficit that already exists gets magnified, and people lose what little faith they have in the system. It gives separatists the chance to claim that the electoral system here is a farce.”