When the Governor’s rule became inevitable in J & K with the government formation stuck in PDP-BJP deadlocked dialogue the voters must have been dismayed though the fractured mandate foreclosed all other options. So diametrically opposed were the known policy positions of the two parties that any adjustment would have sounded as terribly opportunist to the people. The PDP, on its part, just cannot risk it in view of the fact that Article 370 is a fundamental premise of Kashmir’s existence within the Indian Union. It is almost inscribed into the psyche of Kashmiri identity.
Further corruption over the years, like in many other states, has so incensed the people that they feel their ballots have been wasted. While bracing the festering wounds of separatist violence on the one side they are also saddled with the thorns of stalled development that entailed power shortages, lingering infrastructural issues and unemployment. The National Conference, tainted by corruption and dynastic politics, has managed to retain its political space purely on account of the historical legacy and the Kashmiri urge to have a representative icon of its hubris. Its presence has been edgy and insecure. The PDP is on a better wicket on that count since both the Mufti and his daughter Mehbooba have a track record untainted by corruption.
In the present scenario there is a crying need to assuage the alienated psyche with the political resolve to form a government where arithmetic favours a PDP-BJP partnership based on political consensus, not convenience. Contentious issues have to be put in the backburner in a demonstration of political maturity that will give the voters of J&K confidence in the political process. Be that as it may, there are other serious issues eating into the sap of public morale such as high unemployment among youth, dwindling small businesses and displacement of Pandits. What was once an enticing spot for handicrafts, soporific carpets and Bollywood shoots has been reduced to a smoking cauldron of insecurity and sundered mindset. A look at the growth profile of the state will illustrate this.
There has not been a holistic growth in the state over last decade or more as is seen in the disproportionate increase in the growth of the services sector. This may augur well for the tourist potential but remains a stumbling block to the overall growth of the economy.
Agriculture still accounts for 70 per cent of the livelihood of the population though there has been a decline in its growth over the last five years. In addition there are problems of low productivity, soil erosion in hilly areas, single cropping and poor power supply for irrigation.
Industry too has suffered over the same period. J&K ranks fifth in terms of per capita income at Rs.30000 plus in 2011-12 which is only marginally below the national average of Rs.38000. Skill levels have taken a beating what with the import of labourers from other states and lack of focus on research and technology upgradation. This has contributed to persisting lack of jobs though poverty and unemployment levels are low compared to other states.
J&K’s fiscal deficit has been consistently high because of the pressure to repay Central funds on which it has been heavily dependent. Its internal revenue generation has not been enough to outgrow the debt.
Essentially its growth graph has not been inclusive- the steady decline in the share of the primary and secondary sectors - and the immediate need of a new government taking shape is to set the table right. Yet this will depend on the political sagacity of the emerging partners of the coalition – PDP and the BJP – to bring in developmental imperatives into their budget and give them a push free from political bickerings. After all the voters have given a fractured mandate to test the parties to evolve a framework of governance which is what the state badly needs.