Syed Junaid Hashmi
JAMMU, Mar 14: History of electoral politics of Jammu and Kashmir is replete with instances where sworn enemies have shook hands for petty political gains and political stalwarts from both Jammu and Kashmir regions have preferred sharing power over so-called “regional dignity, empowerment of masses and welfare of the people.
One such instance from the past is the support extended by the corporators of National Conference to the RSS backed candidate in 1980. The incident is important in the wake of the fact that the man behind the alliance was founder of National Conference late Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah.
Sheikh not only aligned with RSS backed Bharatiya Janata Party but also defended the same in public. More so, this stalwart of National Conference preferred alliance with Sangh Parivar over extending support to an independent candidate who had then claimed support of Congress.
Though the newspaper reports of that era suggest that Sheikh’s support was tactical, aimed at teaching Congress a lesson for having ditched him on an earlier occasion but the manner in which sheikh defended his alliance with Sangh surprised even his closet aides.
A peep into the past reveals that elections were held for the 23 seats of Jammu Municipal Council on April 10, 1980. The then Director Municipal town area elections Hakim Said-ud-din put the polling percentage at 70 percent. Subsequently, on April 11, 1980; results were declared. Bharatiya Janata Party captured 11 of the 23 seats followed by Congress (7), National Conference (4) and a solitary seat went to an independent Amolak Singh.
The drama took place on April 19, 1980 when the council was going to elect its President and Vice-President. Congress had sponsored Amolak Singh, an independent for the president with the hope that National Conference under late Sheikh Abdullah will vote for him. But the ruling party openly sided with the RSS when it voted for their candidate Ved Prakash Bajaj, an RSS hardliner.
Bajaj polled 15 votes, eleven of his party and four of National Conference against the eight polled for congress backed candidate. With the active support of National Conference, Sangh nominees captured the coveted office of both president and vice-president of the 23 member Jammu municipal council. Ved Prakash Bajaj was elected as President of the Council while Dina Nath Sharma was chosen as vice-president of the council. The then President of Jammu district congress (I) Chunni Lal Sharma had described the NC alliance with BJP as an attempt to encourage RSS and Jana Sangh to cut roots of secular forces in Jammu. He had called it well-thought out move of National Conference (NC).
Sharma had then alleged that Sheikh asked his corporators to support Jana Sangh despite being informed about their party (Congress) backing the independent candidate Amolak Singh. He had even gone to the extent of alleging that NC-led government had been giving several concessions to the Sangh Leaders of Jammu region. Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah not only defended the alliance but justified the same vehemently.
On April 23, 1980 while speaking at the inaugural function of the newly elected Jammu Municipal Council, late Sheikh vigorously defended his party’s alliance with Bharatiya Janata Party and launched a frontal attack on Congress and its leadership. Amidst repeated cheers from Sangh leaders and the predominantly pro-RSS audience, late Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah lashed out at congress accusing it of opportunism and power craze.
Abdullah had described leaders of Congress as “Tigdambaz (tricksters)” and mad for power and called the RSS men his own Kith and Kin. Referring to the request of Congress to support its candidate, Sheikh had said “Congress leaders met me and sought support for their candidate but I plainly told them to honour the people’s verdict and support the majority party’s candidate for presidentship. Instead of accepting this advice, they desired to indulge in horse-trading.”
Sheikh further said “What was wrong in cooperating with the Sangh? After all, they are also citizens of this country and have been elected by the people. They are not “Rakhshas (demons)” but our kith and kin. By coming together, we would be able to understand each other better and the clouds of misunderstanding could be removed.”
He had culminated his address with these words “You may dub Janata men as reactionaries but they have come to the council with the people’s mandate and you cannot ignore that.” Political observers opine that events of the past and the prevailing circumstances in Jammu and Kashmir indicate towards repeat of such an alliance possibly at a bigger level and probably for the first time in the history of Jammu and Kashmir.