Rahul’s test on Kashmir – can he translate his words into action

Caution in politics is good, but real politics is about taking risks

There was a perfect setting for the conclusion of the “Bharat Jodo Yatra”  heavy snowfall on Monday greeted Congress leaders at Sher-e-Kashmir cricket stadium in Srinagar that has been witness to many promises being made to the people of Kashmir, and then getting lost in the political turbulences in the country. Rahul Gandhi, the star walker of his foot march from Kanyakumari to Kashmir, is the first scion of the Nehru-Gandhi family who spoke from the ramparts of the stadium, where BJP’s stalwart and statesman prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee had extended India’s hand of friendship to Pakistan in April 2003.

Rahul Gandhi had many firsts to his credit. He is the first leader who arrived in Kashmir by leading a foot march  from the southern-most tip of India –  Kanyakumari – to the northern most point – Kashmir, highlighting the day to day issues, ranging from price rise, unemployment and the need to defeat and deflate once for all the politics of hate. He also is the first leader who has attempted to reach out to Kashmiris when his party is not in power at the Centre, and he shared the stage with National Conference’s Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti, two of the best known faces of  Kashmir’s regional parties. Congress has been a political ally of both the parties since early 2000s.

The snowflakes did offer a perfect setting for Rahul Gandhi and his colleagues, including his sister-Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, but the issues which he touched upon did raise a question, what next for him and the promises that he made to the people of Jammu and Kashmir. Rahul was conscious of his political limitations as he could not speak as effectively as he would have wanted about the abrogation of Article 370 that granted special status to Jammu and Kashmir, though this constitutional provision stayed in the Indian constitution for almost 70 years because of his great grandfather and first prime minister of India Jawaharlal Nehru. His limitations can be understood,  the abrogation of the special status, indeed is a sensitive issue for the seven million people of Kashmir, but it also is a hyper sensitive issue for 1.3 billion people across the country. Kashmiris wanted Article 370 to stay but the rest of the Indians were against it. Congress, which claims to be the national party, could not have tripped on this issue. Hence, the guarded approach.

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Caution in politics is good, but real politics is about taking risks. It is one thing to undertake an arduous journey from one corner to the other of the country, and quite another to embark on a political journey where risks award rewards. Rahul Gandhi could not have sent a single message for the country, and  Kashmir excluded from it. He had to gel the two, that made him to speak about the elections and the statehood.  Now, it is to be seen that how serious is Congress about these issues. The people in Kashmir will judge him, and his Bharat Jodo Yatra, from that yardstick.  This is a test that he has proposed for himself. It is to be seen how he fulfils this commitment – it should not freeze like the  Kashmir snow that he experienced on Monday.

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