Everybody perhaps had thought that the after-effects of the final set of assembly election of 2014 would be felt more in Jharkhand, the most politically unstable state of the Indian Union. But in reality, it is the other 'J', Jammu and Kashmir, which made the headlines with its political future looking uncertain, thanks to a divided mandate that saw no party getting a majority in the house.
The situation in J&K is nearing a stalemate as none of the parties are prepared to blink first, considering the stake they have in joining hands with the rivals, particularly the BJP.
The purpose of democracy will be defeated if parties fail to find a way out of the puzzle
If the state fails to see a viable combination assuming the responsibility of governance soon, the very purpose of a successful election in the state where democracy has always been up against challenges, will be defeated, strengthening the hands of the enemies of popular rule.
Heavy turnout was a reply to separatists and terrorists
The heavy turnout (over 70 per cent) in the five-phase elections despite calls of boycott by the separatists and terror strikes, the aloofness of the central and security agencies during this year's election and the failure of the BJP to bag 44 seats by itself and form a government in the state riding the Narendra Modi wave --- all hint at a sense of fairness in this year's election in Jammu and Kashmir.
J&K also needs a robust opposition besides a stable govt
Now, it is for the parties, none of which are at any advantage to dictate terms, to find a consensus route and honour the popular mandate by forming a stable government. It also becomes important that the state gets a credible opposition that works towards checking the government's action and not (mis)utilise presudo-separatist and communal sentiments to score a political point.
Decline of centrist Congress and rise of rightist BJP have made it difficult for parties like PDP and NC
The decline of the centrist Congress and the rise of the rightist BJP have made it very challenging for both the PDP and NC to opt for an ally to form a government in the state. The Congress is an easier ally for both the party and the past, it played the role of the kingmaker in the state.
But with the BJP which has a pro-Hindu religious identity, it becomes difficult for the regional parties to extend a hand for alliance for in a communally divided state, it can claim a huge cost in the future. For these parties hence, it becomes easier to choose the lesser enemy.
Communal polarisation and AFSPA: Two big challenges for new govt
The new government in Jammu and Kashmir, irrespective of the composition, will have two big challenges before it and they are communal polarisation and the issue of AFSPA.
In terms of communal polarisation, the fact that the PDP and BJP have won almost nothing in Jammu and Kashmir Valley, respectively, in a way reduces their weight as the first and the second party in the latest election. [J&K Govt formation: Mehbooba hints at alliance with BJP, invokes Vajpayee]
BJP in Jammu, NC in Valley: Exclusive spheres of influence
The BJP has won the biggest vote-share for sure but the gain is entirely from the Jammu Division while the PDP's victory in this division has come only from the Muslim-dominated constituencies. The two parties might have their three-year turn for chief ministership but can they really deal with the electoral imbalance? [After meeting BJP leaders, J&K governor meets PDP's Mehbooba Mufti]
The question of AFSPA will also plague the new government, particularly in dealing with the military presence. Former chief minister Omar Abdullah had questioned its applicability in certain areas but it won't be easy for the new regime to realise what Abdullah had sought for given Kashmir's geographic reality, the army's role remains unquestionable.
Can the civilian government extend each Kashmiri the right which is taken for granted by the rest of the country? Is an open government coupled with official accountability practicable in this state?
Jammu and Kashmir looks a much complicated issue to handle at this moment, even more than Jharkhand, thanks to the external, constitutional and communal challenges that come with it, but if seen positively, it could also be the opportunity for the state to establish its case, one which has been best felicitated by democracy.