Hara-kiri Express The UPA/ Congress are in dire need of political genius, says N.V.Subramanian. 28 January 2011: In the context of the Centre/ Omar Abdullah's authoritarian mishandling of the BJP's flag yatra, some observations on democratic politics and political genius are in order. Contrary to what the Congress/ UPA at the Centre and Omar Abdullah in J and K believe, democracy and democratic politics are about give and take. Democracy is not a zero-sum game. There is no absolute defeat in democracy as there is no eternal victory. Sixty and particularly the last thirty years of India's roller-coaster democratic politics should make that evident if nothing else. Just as the UPA in the Centre won't concede the 2G scam JPC demand making a virtue of adamancy, so it thinks blocking the BJP in J and K is a victory won. It will turn out a pyrrhic victory. A tricolour raised by the BJP in Srinagar's Lal Chowk while not only not illegal would have made no material difference to the J and K situation. Blocking it won't consolidate J and K's accession to India. Rather, it will embolden the separatists. The clueless Centre and the incompetent Omar Abdullah never figured this from first. This writer is not concerned that Jammu will wed more firmly in the BJP camp now. The situation may reverse. In time, the Congress could emerge victorious. Such is the glorious uncertainty of democracy. But the impact of the flag yatra ban in Kashmir is what worries this writer. Omar Abdullah may crow he has won a new political lease to ruling Kashmir. That begs the question. But how? Stopping the BJP? But it was never a force in the Valley. Nor will it be in the foreseeable future. That leaves a second question, whose implication Omar Abdullah and his Central mentors would abhor. The second question gets framed in this manner. By banning the tricolour in Lal Chowk, does Omar Abdullah perceive winning immediate reprieve from the separatists? If he does so, does he understand the fuller, deeper and graver consequences of this so-called reprieve? Are Syed Ali Shah Geelani & Co going to sit back after seeing Omar Abdullah go on the backfoot for their benefit? Unless the Central leadership -- which has zilch understanding of politics -- gets immediately proactive in cooling separatist ardour post the messed up flag affair, Kashmir will go on the boil again. It is not enough to argue that Omar Abdullah hoisted the tricolour at the official twenty-six January ceremony. Lal Chowk has a special political significance for J and K that Bakshi Stadium, the official venue for the Republic Day and Independence Day celebrations, can never have. All in all, the Centre and Omar Abdullah have mismanaged the situation in a way that shows them incapable of democratic political understanding. Which leads to the second issue of political genius mentioned in the opening paragraph. One of the doughtiest illustrations of political genius ironically emerges from another BJP Ekta Yatra led by Murli Manohar Joshi back in 1991-92. P.V.Narasimha Rao was the prime minister then. Save for A.B.Vajpayee, this writer cannot recall any politician of that generation as deep, profound and wise as Narasimha Rao. Narasimha Rao had another astute politician in his cabinet, Arjun Singh. Although Arjun Singh and Narasimha Rao were bitter rivals, both contributed to saving J and K in their own indirect/ direct and distinct ways. Besides the Indian Army, some first-class Madhya Pradesh police officers assigned to J and K contributed to preventing its separation in the tumultuous early-Nineties. A few of these IPS officers were friends/ acquaintances of this writer. These included the legendary D.D.Gupta, Ashok Patel, and in a latter tenure, Vijay Raman (the man who got Ghazi Baba), who retires this month and should be a worthy advisor to any government. Each of these police officers had been hand-picked by Arjun Singh for his anti-dacoity operations in Madhya Pradesh. Outside the army with counter-insurgency experience, Madhya Pradesh police officers with anti-dacoity skills were thought a good fit for J and K. In the event, they proved more than able. But the political genius lay in Arjun Singh to identify them and to utilize them for his administrative goals in Madhya Pradesh. This political genius classically is missing in the Centre today. And Omar Abdullah is too young and arrogant (carrying the halo of Rahul Gandhi's friendship) to even realize the absence of this quality. But not only were top-grade Madhya Pradesh police officers fortunately deployed in J and K when it was make-or-break for the state. There was also the political genius of a prime minister, Narasimha Rao. He instinctively knew how to employ them to bring peace and stability to the Valley. When Murli Joshi's Ekta Yatra neared J and K, there was initial anxiety in the local administration. Police friends called this writer unofficially to convey their concerns to the Centre. Most reluctantly, this writer complied. It is always troublesome and in some ways improper (think Radiagate) to become a backchannel/ postman. But the silence at the Centre's end was deafening/ remarkable. In time, message returned that everything was under control. Most readers know how the Joshi yatra ended. No side won and no side lost. J and K's recovery not only continued but accelerated. Full marks to Narasimha Rao for turning potential disadvantage into profit. The J and K establishment was left wondrous by the turn of events. If the Congress's administrative experience both at the Centre and in the states is totaled, surely no other party can excel it. Which is why the current, hopeless, irretrievable mess in the Centre (2G, black money, prices, Adarsh, CWG, CVC, infighting...) and in J and K (Omar Abdullah's dispensation is unfit to be called a government) leaves this writer appalled and not a little astonished. Omar Abdullah is on a course to self-destruction. And there is nobody in the political class of Narasimha Rao, Vajpayee or Arjun Singh on top in the UPA to apply the brakes on the Hara-kiri Express. [/quote] In Indian history we had numerous instances of Hara Kiri express with people recluctant to step on brakes due to various factors. The most common fact was a failure to recognize that the train has no driver despite having an occupant.