High drama ends as India dissolves assembly in India-administered Kashmir despite two rival local alliances staking claims to form a government, a decision observers say confirms lack of credibility of elections in disputed region.
India's government has dissolved the Kashmir state assembly in a sudden move that could lead to fresh elections and further turmoil in the disputed region also claimed by Pakistan.
The move, which came after two rival local alliances both staked claims to form a government in the heavily-militarised region, was seen to strengthen the hand of federal and right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government, which has ruled Kashmir directly since June and is gearing up for next year's general election.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi's hand-picked governor said he dissolved the legislature late on Wednesday in the absence of stable government in India-administered Kashmir (or Jammu and Kashmir).
Satya Pal Malik said that elections would be held "at an appropriate time so that a government with a clear mandate is duly formed".
Before the dissolution, Mehbooba Mufti, the former chief minister and leader of regional pro-India Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), tweeted saying her fax staking claim on government isn't reaching the governor’s office.
Mufti said her party had support of another regional and pro-India party National Conference, and India's opposition Congress party.
Immediately, a BJP-backed regional party Peoples Conference, led by Sajad Lone, also said it has required numbers of politicians to form the government but its fax to the governor's office was "not working".
The drama ended when Malik released a statement announcing dissolution of the assembly, denying the possibility of a regional government without BJP.
They refrained from dissolving J&K assembly earlier because there was a *chance* to horse-trade/poach/buy MLAs and form a govt of their own. When @jkpdp, @JKNC_ and @INCIndia got together, BJP knew it’s game’s up. Promptly the governor applied the great Indian rope trick 📠— Sadiq ‘Sameer’ Bhat (@sadiquiz) November 21, 2018
Malik is the first politician to be appointed governor of the region in decades, with the role traditionally reserved for non-political figures.
The India-administered region has been plagued for decades by political instability and an armed revolt that has left tens of thousands dead, mostly civilians.
Rebel groups have long fought over 500,000 Indian troops stationed there, demanding an independent state or merger with Pakistan.
Modi's BJP pulled out of the governing coalition in the region in June, because of what it called worsening "terrorism and violence".
This latest move has agitated an alliance of local parties that claimed to have a majority in parliament, and a right to rule free from BJP's control.
Malik dismissed their claim, saying "extensive horse-trading and possible exchange of money" had occurred and the alliance could not ensure stable government.
The murky tamasha of Indian Democracy& its local and Indian players gets more and more exposed in J&K,while people watch with disgust and dismay!No real democracy can ever flourish under forced control,it can only be manipulations &lies as we are witnessing for the past 70 years!— Mirwaiz Umar Farooq (@MirwaizKashmir) November 22, 2018
Regional parties called 'terror-friendly'
The BJP called for fresh polls "at the earliest".
"J&K needs a firm administration to deal with terrorism and not a combination of terror-friendly parties," the ruling party declared in a Twitter post late Wednesday.
Its members alleged two of the pro-Indian parties in the region were instructed by Pakistan to join forces against a BJP-backed party.
"For all these years, Congress and earlier non-Congress governments in New Delhi have termed pro-India Kashmiri parties as their assets (though treating them roughly in practice) and torchbearers of Indian democracy in Kashmir," Hilal Mir, a Kashmir-based senior journalist, told TRT World.
"By trashing this bunch of politicians as Pakistan proxies, BJP has declared its aim to install a 'purely Indian' dispensation in Kashmir. The pro-India Kashmiri stooges have been hoisted on their own petard."
"The BJP could sell it both ways across India, for gains in general elections," said Noor Ahmad Baba, a political scientist at University of Kashmir.
"Now, they would say they didn't let the local parties come together against the national interest, didn't bow down to them," he added.
History of dismissals in #Kashmir by Delhi— Muhammad Faysal (@_Faysal) November 22, 2018
1953:PM Sheikh Abdullah arrested in a Coup
'63: PM Bakshi's dismissed under Kamaraj plan
'84: Farooq Abdullah govt dismissed by Jagmohan
'86: GM Shah govt dismissed by Jagmohan
'87: Elections rigged
'90: Jagmohan returns, Farooq resigns
Credibility of elections questioned
It is unclear when a fresh local poll will be held but historically ballots have lacked credibility.
Last year just seven percent of voters turned out to elect a state representative to the national parliament. Another vacant seat in the lower house has not been filled in two years.
State assembly elections in 1987 were marred by graft and foreshadowed an armed rebellion against Indian rule that continues today.
The pro-India parties in Kashmir gave their lives & dignity for India, yet BJP calls them pro-Pakistan. Is there anyone since 1947 till now who was trusted by India in Kashmir? It wont surprise us, if mercenaries will continue to bat for India after being humiliated time & again.— Khurram Parvez (@KhurramParvez) November 22, 2018
"This (latest) move by New Delhi confirms the lack of credibility elections in Kashmir have," Prof Siddiq Wahid, a historian and political commentator told AFP.
"It also means more confrontation between the people and the Indian state in Kashmir."
Muslim-majority Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan since the end of British colonial rule in 1947. Both countries claim the former Himalayan kingdom in its entirety.
Most Kashmiris support rebel demands that the territory be united either under Pakistani rule or as an independent country in a UN-brokered plebiscite, while also participating in civilian street protests against Indian control.
Anti-India groups have long rejected regional elections as farce saying the exercise is no substitute to a referendum vote to decide the sovereignty of the picturesque Himalayan territory.
Nearly 100,000 people have been killed in the uprising and the ensuing Indian military crackdown.