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Politics of Chicanery

November 18, 2011

Politics is the art of survival. Politicians will do just about anything to remain in business.  If that means a bit of deception or partial truthfulness or downright chicanery, they have no qualms. In recent times I can identify at least two instances of downright moral bankruptcy in diverting attention from issues that were Germaine to the politicians at the center of these political fraud, as it were.

The first instance was when Omar Abdullah, the Chief Minister of the volatile Jammu and Kashmir raised the demand for abrogation of AFSPA or the Armed Forces Special Powers Act from parts of Jammu and Kashmir saying that since the situation has been under control the ‘draconian’ AFSPA is no longer needed1. The areas of Budgam and his home constituency of Ganderbal were the ones from which he proposed that AFSPA be removed. The army was at its wits end. The ground situation in J & K has been normalized with much effort from the army, CRPF and other paramilitary forces and the J&K police. For the army to operate in hostile conditions within national borders without legal protection was impossible. Omar Abdullah knew it as did the central leadership and the army. The army would have had no option but to withdraw from the two districts that the Chief Minister proposed. That would mean uninstalling communication and logistical infrastructure which would affect the operations in the whole of Jammu and Kashmir. It was a naïve proposal but a proposal that none of the other political parties could afford to disagree with. It was Omar Abdullah playing to the galleries – grandstanding as it were and trying to prove that he was fighting for the mustaqbil of the awaam of Jammu and Kashmir.  Neither the PDP nor the Congress nor any other party could criticize Omar Abdullah on this. PDP on the other hand did another act of bravado when they demanded that AFSPA be abolished in toto from the valley.

Those who understand the politics of Jammu and Kashmir understood Omar Abdullah’s need to raise the pitch. The background to his getting hot under the collar was the gory incident of the alleged custodial death of his party worker soon after the man came out of Chief Minister Omar Abdullah’s residence2. The man in question is one Syed Muhammad Yusuf and there were some reports of argument on exchange of money for political gratification. Yusuf, a teacher by profession was close to the Abdullah family and his death soon after he came out of Omar Abdullah’s residence where he was allegedly beaten up raised a storm in J&K and across the nation. Omar Abdullah was forced to make a media appearance to put forth his case. There were few takers for what he had to say. Diversion was the only effective way out and when it comes to chicanery, Abdullah’s are past masters. The issue of abrogation of AFSPA was one that even the principal opposition party the PDP would not be able to reject.  Omar Abdullah promised that he would get the whole Muhammad Yusuf matter enquired to by a sitting judge of the High Court. This was not as easy as it seemed and Omar Abdullah knew it. The matter went to the Supreme Court where the request was struck down. This gave CM Omar Abdullah enough time to raise pitch against AFSPA. He made a few trips to Delhi on the AFSPA issue. All parties were seen to be backing the CM. The whole thing was a charade. Omar was never going to be a loser on this one. If the Center capitulated he would claim victory and if they rejected the proposal he would blame the Center for all the ills that afflict the Valley. Political chicanery won the day. The contentious matter of death of NC worker Muhammad Yusuf has been sidelined. The press has forgotten it as indeed the people of J&K. And quite flows the Jhelum.

The other instance of political chicanery comes from the largest state of Uttar Pradesh. The state goes to polls sometime in 2012 which is around the corner. Mayawati the leader of the Bahujan Samaj Party is the Chief Minister. Coming from a deprived section of the society, the Dalits the lady has done little for her constituency. From the times of the Assembly election to the Lok Sabha elections vote percentage from the Dalits that are her vote bank to her party have decreased by 20 percentage points -from more than 85% to less than 66%. Mayawati knows that she is on a sticky wicket. She cannot bank on her Dalit vote bank nor on the Brahmins who voted for her in huge numbers. She has done precious little for the development of the state and therefore there is a widespread disillusionment with her government. What she has done is built parks and installed her own statues which she garlands herself at their unveiling! People are aghast at her indifference. Corruption in UP, it is said has reached unprecedented proportions. One DIG who talked about corruption in UP was branded as mentally unstable by the Mayawati government, admitted to a mental asylum and has since been sent home to recuperate.

What does a politician do when faced with such unsavory situation? Predictable, resort to chicanery! Mayawati had this trump card of sorts when she proposed that UP be divided into four smaller states. The idea of division of the humungous state of Uttar Pradesh into four smaller states of Harit Pradesh, Awadh, Bundelkhand and Purvanchal is nothing new3.  It is the fact that Mayawati has got passed in the state assembly the proposal of division of UP that has put the cat among the pigeons. Mayawati in effect is promising that she will get the state divided into four separate identities knowing full well that people of the state would prefer smaller states. She knows that if she were to ask for votes on the basis of her performance her efforts will come a cropper. So she is promising the formation of these four smaller states and asking for votes. The idea is such that neither the Congress nor the BJP has been able to reject it outright. Only the Samajwadi party has come out openly against the division of the state. Mayawati also knows that except for Bundelkhand the other three proposed states have the backing of the majority of people there, irrespective of caste or religion.

The chicanery comes out in the open when one realizes that there are other states that are facing similar demands and the center has not been able to go about bifurcating them. One prime example is the proposed state of Telangana which is demanded be carved from Andhra Pradesh. The other long standing demand is that of Gorkhaland which wants a separate statehood away from West Bengal. Then there is demand for Vidarbha be constituted from Maharashtra. All these demands are long standing and in case of Telangana the agitation has such emotional outpouring that it is believed that more than 600 men and women have committed suicide for the creation of the state.

Mayawati knows very well that any division of Uttar Pradesh is not going to happen anytime soon. It may take decades for this to be decided. In her heart of hearts she may even be dead against the division of Uttar Pradesh because she knows that her chances of coming to power in a united UP are much more than in four different smaller states. But she sees no harm in promising something that she knows’ is not going to happen and even if it does it won’t happen in the next few years. She finds it politically expedient to promise something that people can look forward to and vote for her in hopes she will get the states to fructify. She could not give bread and infrastructure so she is giving hopes and an alibi for the lack of development during her five year stint. Her opponents are finding it difficult to disagree with her on this one. They cannot criticize her on this move and even the debate over the lack of development in UP has now been diverted to whether the state can be governed effectively in its present form. This is political chicanery at its worse. The recent elections will throw answers to this absolutely ridiculous political maneuvers that have taken the debate from the mundane to the absurd.

Our political class needs to have a more responsible attitude towards the people they are supposed to serve. They would do well not to test the intelligence of the people. They will get a befitting reply.




  1. With decline in militancy in J&K, residents echo Omar’s sentiments on AFSPA removal
  2.     Omar Abdullah and the custodial death of Yusuf
  3. Mayawati’s sudden impact: 4-way division of UP


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