Political start-ups in Jammu and Kashmir: A growing trend with limited impact

Many of these have either refrained from contesting elections or have faced defeat in the recently held Lok Sabha polls.

Srinagar: In a growing trend over the past decade, Jammu and Kashmir is witnessing a proliferation of “political start-ups” in the Valley but these outfits have failed to make a significant impact during elections, politicians and analysts said on Sunday.

The decades-long unrest in Kashmir has witnessed the rise of several political parties and fronts, including the Jammu and Kashmir Nationalist People’s Front, Bharat Jodo Party, JK Peoples Movement, Jammu and Kashmir All Alliance Democratic Party, Jammu and Kashmir Workers Party, Jammu and Kashmir Peace Party and the Awami Awaaz Party.

‘Disappear like lost planets’

Many of these have either refrained from contesting elections or have faced defeat in the recently held Lok Sabha polls.

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Veteran politician and CPI(M) leader Mohammed Yusuf Tarigami said the leaders of these political start-ups often begin with a bang, enjoy patronage like security and other things, and then disappear like “lost planets when elections are held”.

Instead of floating political start-ups, “we should concentrate on strengthening democratic institutions in the entire Jammu and Kashmir,” he asserted.

Echoing similar views, PDP leader Waheed Para said these start-ups have a “negative impact” on the democratic space and highlighted their lack of popular support and legitimacy.

Para said these political start-ups only demolish and discredit the democratic space. “The recent Lok Sabha election has shown them the mirror clearly,” he added.

In a veiled reference to businessman-turned-politician Altaf Bukhari’s JK Apni Party and the veteran politician Ghulam Nabi Azad-led DPAP, Para said almost three parties were created by breaking up the PDP which only led to demolishing the democratic space in Kashmir and discrediting those left behind.

“Results reflect that only people should be given the right to choose and elect. Parties created in hybrid form don’t enjoy the popular support or legitimacy,” he added.

‘Parties lack organic growth’

Noted Kashmiri Pandit leader and lawyer Titoo Ganjoo said the aftermath of the abrogation of Article 370 in August 2019 saw the emergence of top-down political start-ups in Jammu and Kashmir that lack organic growth and fail to resonate with the local populace.

“These new entities were predominantly composed of disenchanted politicians engaging in exploratory efforts, ultimately doomed to fail in gaining significant political traction,” he said, adding that these start-ups never pose a challenge to the established political order.

The leadership of these political start-ups, conceived to be driven by some government agencies, failed to reflect the genuine aspirations of the local populace, Ganjoo added.

‘Lack region’s realities’

These leaders exhibit a significant disconnect from the region’s realities, focusing more on reclaiming their political relevance rather than addressing the core issues faced by the people, according to prominent social activist Firdous.

Ganjoo argued that the behaviour and conduct of these leaders highlight their opportunistic tendencies and lack of substantial commitment to the region’s long-term stability and development.

“Their efforts were perceived as superficial and self-serving, failing to foster genuine political engagement or meaningful change,” he said, adding that the lack of inspirational leadership and substantive direction has left the region in a state of disillusionment with no coherent or compelling vision for the future emerging from these political start-ups.

Limited experience and resources

Dr Touseef Bhatt, a socio-environmental activist, said that despite representing a new wave of political innovation in a conflict-ridden region, political start-ups in Kashmir face challenges in making a meaningful impact due to their limited experience and resources.

Their dependence on external funding raises concerns about their autonomy and long-term sustainability in a volatile political environment, he said.

While these start-ups aim to engage young Kashmiris in the political process and address local concerns, questions remain about their potential influence on the existing political dynamics and the peace process in the region.

As Kashmir grapples with ongoing challenges and aspirations for change, the fate of political start-ups in the region remains uncertain, raising questions about their ability to effect meaningful political change.

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