Sonia’s Call

With the first part of the power-sharing deal between the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the Congress in Jammu & Kashmir now drawing to a close on November 2 the political temperature in the drawing boards of Srinagar and New Delhi has been turned up a notch higher with reports that Congress MLAs in the J & K Assembly in a bid to pressurize the leadership were understood to have tendered their resignations. The MLAs obviously see something amiss in the air and one cannot rule out the possibility of such a story being planted as a way of posturing and in a bid to pressurize the party high command in 10 Janpath. There is also the fear among the MLAs, drawn mostly from the Jammu region, that if the Congress fails to fulfill the promise on the change guard the party may face a rout in the next assembly elections. 

At the end of the day it would once again fall on Sonia Gandhi to take the decision if at all there is the need for one given the fact that the power-sharing deal in the first place was scripted by her. If the deal has to be observed in letter and spirit one can foresee Sonia’s decision as going only one way and that is to allow a Ghulam Nabi Azad led-Congress to take over power from the Mufti Mohammad Sayeed-led PDP government. As simple as it may sound though, there are some tricky questions and this could be the only reason why the Central Leadership is taking some time on a decision. If the power-sharing agreement was as simple as it looks the Mufti would already have been on his way out. 

But that obviously does not seem to be the case. There is strong speculation that Sonia Gandhi, who has a thing with big surprises, (remember her masterstroke to decline the post of Prime Minister) may have another one up her sleeve: Mufti being allowed a longer reign as Chief Minister and even giving him the full 6-year term cannot be ruled out. It may be also just that the transfer of power in J & K might be delayed because of the massive relief and rehabilitation efforts that are going on in the state after the devastating earthquake. 

By sacrificing power at this juncture when the State is reeling under a humanitarian crisis, the Congress may only add to its image as a party that does not lust after power. This is the long run may turn out to be politically more viable and it would also be able to build up a constituency in the Kashmir Valley where both the PDP and the Opposition National Conference draws their political support and strength from.  

With Sonia Gandhi one can never tell. Her understanding of politics most times follows an unconventional path which seems to be working as well and with the goodwill she has been able to establish within the organization everyone may well fall in line whatever her wisdom and decision on the power equation Post-November 2.