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NC's reckoning time
Sheikh Nazir and Mustafa Kamal are giving vent to their troubled conscience
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It is high time to assess pros and cons of an undeniable qualitative shift in the ideological ethos and political orientation of the National Conference after it has forfeited its exclusive claim to authentic popular representation in Jammu and Kashmir in general and the Valley in particular. 74-year old NC, now under the leadership of a third-generation Abdullah, is no longer self-sufficient to retain its over-arching representative character or to assert its will. The party, having lost capability as well as ability to stand on its own legs, has had to surrender a substantial part of its political and moral authority to bargain for power. In a way, the consequences of this dynamic reflect an inverted image of the comparable picture existing at the centre.

In New Delhi, it is the oldest national party which has to make awkward compromises with smaller regional players to remain afloat. The cost price of the bargain has been escalating with tail wagging the dog. Here in J&K, it is the NC which is at the receiving end of this bargain. Take any issue and it becomes clear as to how easily the Congress manages to have its way as well as its say in crucial matters. The lure of power is not a one-way street, here or in New Delhi.

That it has not been a painless exercise for the NC is obvious by the occasional cry of anguished conscience emanating from within the sanctum sanctorum of the Kashmir's grand old party. If it was Mustafa Kamal yesterday to have the 'audacity' to stand up and be counted today it is that old war horse of the NC, Sheikh Nazir Ahmed, to grieve over the loss of their pre-eminence. Obviously, realisation is gradually dawning in some corner that there really are no free lunches in this world.

Perhaps the earlier generation to which Farooq Abdullah belongs is finding it hard to suppress the pangs of transition to a new political culture dictated by the exigencies of ruthless power politics. That is why their seemingly comfortable coalition with the Congress, at times, comes under sudden internal stress. Obviously, such a situation can arise only when things become unbearable for a few, if not most or all of them. As opposed to their plight, the third generation led by Omar Abdullah has no such qualms. Ignorance, they say, is bliss. Safeguarding their momentary position in power remains their ultimate objective irrespective of its long range political cost. Therein lies the rub.

The argument that this line of thinking dates back to 1975 sounds logical though there are material differences between the two scenarios. A colossus like Sheikh Abdullah had the moral authority as well as stature to under-write any such cost but his successors have already exhausted their reserves. This much is obvious in the difference between the shape and size of the NC in 1982 and in 2012. Phenomena of invincibility died with the stalwart three decades ago. Since then, his legacy (if the NC can still be called so) has been coming under increasing eclipse from generation to generation. The slide seems to be irretrievable.

There are two clear cut choices for the NC to choose from: Should it stay on its present course at the expense of its inherited legacy or should it seek to regain its lost élan. There is a price to pay either way. Mustafa Kamal and Sheikh Nazir, with their ears to the ground, dread the outcome of wrong choice. Their being only permanent interests and no permanent friends in realpolitik, the Congress has shown its flexibility in choosing between the NC and the PDP if and when it comes to that.

The political vacuum in the state created over the past two or three decades by the NC's decline is gradually getting filled up by alternative forces. Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) being way ahead of other (mainly individual) players. NC is no longer in a position to afford the luxury of fighting for regaining its lost space without the Congress crutches. But can it afford to survive its ultimate cost?

News Updated at : Sunday, December 9, 2012
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