For those of you not familiar with the concept of a kingmaker, let me explain in simple language. A kingmaker is a person who makes the king in every meaning of the word ‘make’. A king might seem like a singular entity, in whose hands lies the sole decision-making power of the kingdom. However, behind the success of a king lie the interests and hence, contributions of many influential people. While a king rules his subjects being in the public eye, the kingmaker or kingmakers rule from the shadows.
It might sound like a distant concept, but you’ll be surprised how common it is. Be it Alexander the Great, Emperor Akbar or even Russia’s President Vladimir Putin; there is always a Ptolemy, Bairam Khan, or a horde of spies behind the success of these historic personalities.
The only difference or should I say the critical difference between a king and a kingmaker is that the latter strives to keep his identity secret and doesn’t come out in the open. The king who everybody knows and sees is the face of the movement so to say. The kingmaker, on the other hand, is the wire that makes the puppets dance and keeps the show going. It appears -on the surface atleast- that the king has all the power. However, it is seldom the case that only one person has all the power.
If you still have some doubt regarding the concept of a kingmaker check out the following video describing the role of kingmakers in the political and military diaspora of Middle East.
Now let’s discuss the Indian scenario and the unseen role of kingmakers in making the Kashmir Reorganization Bill a reality.
So what is going on in the Indian political arena right now? Narendra Modi is the Prime Minister of India after having won the Lok Sabha elections with a clear majority for the second consecutive time; a rare feat in Indian democracy. Thought it might seem like a one-man show, behind Narendra Modi’s unprecedented success stand people like Home Minister Amit Shah, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, and Ex-Finance Minister Arun Jaitley. These generals of Modi’s army, if you will, among many others, have had a crucial hand in realizing Modi’s dream of ruling India. Working in many different arena, these individuals have made sure that the promises of our renowned PM don’t go in vain.
Of course, in the past five years, these BJP kingmakers have gradually shifted to the center stage, sharing the limelight with Modi. However, that doesn’t nullify their original unsung contribution in initiating the seemingly endless reign of Bharatiya Janta Party.
The Kashmir Reorganization Bill has essentially scrapped Section 370 of the Indian Constitution and converted the state of Jammu and Kashmir into two Union Territories, Jammu and Laddakh. The success of this bill can largely be attributed to the seamless division of power between the Prime Minister and his cabinet. Narendra Modi has not only showed exemplary political and strategic acumen but also an ingenuity when it comes to enforcing his vision of making Kashmir a dispute free area. He put Amit Shah and Ajit Doval on the forefront giving the reins of the Kashmir issue in their hands to achieve a two-pronged benefit.
First of all, due to the Home Minister’s direct involvement, Jammu and Kashmir would smoothly transition into two Union Territories controlled by the Central Government for all intents and purposes. This will not only result in the controversial state flourishing and developing at par with its neighbour states but will also allow the Central government to deal with the issue of terrorism with complete control and transparency. With Amit Shah leading the political narrative and Ajit Doval handling the ensuing defense repercussions, we can be sure that any retaliation from either the opposition or our extra excited neighbour country will be dealt with accordingly.
Secondly and most importantly, no political or social whiplash shall come back on Narendra Modi himself since he has made sure that he is not in the limelight. Our astute PM has clearly learnt from his predecessors including Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and her failure in Operation Blue Star. He did so, so that no adverse reactions of this historic and undoubtedly controversial decision come back at him as they shouldn’t.
Historically, Kashmir a beautiful and strategically inclined hill station lying in the laps of upper Himalayas joined the country of India in 1948. This crucial decision of Raja Hari Singh came when after the partition of India in 1947, Pakistan attacked Kashmir to annex it illegally. Hari Singh agreed to join his kingdom of Kashmir with India on the terms that the citizens of the new state will be given special status and autonomous dominion over their home. Indian PM Jawaharlal Nehru agreed and under Section 370 of Indian Constitution gave the newly formed state of Jammu and Kashmir significant leverage over the Indian government. Section 370 provided the J&K the freedom to allow only the natural-born citizens to buy land in the state alongwith several other benefits. Since then, Jammu and Kashmir continued to be an entirely different and segregated part of India governed by its own laws.
Hence, when it came to upturning Article 370, the Modi Government did it with immense planning and care that the issue required. Modi and his cabinet knew that Article 370 can only be removed through a referendum from the President which should then be approved by the Legislative assembly of Jammu and Kashmir. So they bided their time, and when the Legislative assembly was not in session, the king and his kingmakers took the alternate route. In the absence of a Legislative assembly, the article could be removed only if it was passed both houses of Indian parliament, i.e. Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha.
Home Minister Amit Shah along with the Cabinet of BJP led NDA, and the National Security Advisor Ajit Doval devised a plan to convert Kashmir into a Union territory which will be controlled directly by the Central Government. They planned in the shadows launching a two-way strategy. On the one hand, they prepared their MPs and MLAs for swift approval of the bill in both parliamentary houses and on the other hand they took help of the National Security Advisor Ajit Doval in crushing any unwanted consequences of passing the bill in Kashmir.
In anticipation of security threats, the famed Amarnath Yatra was cancelled, and thousands of tourists were called back from Kashmir on a crafty terrorist threat. The plan was so secretive and the team so tightly knit that up until a day before, the governor of the state himself didn’t know what was going to happen. And even if he did, he didn’t say. After placing all the safeguards in place, they proposed the bill in Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha and got it passed in two days, implementing a cautionary curfew in Kashmir at the same time.
Whereas some people hailed it a historic move which has come at the right time and will lead to the betterment of the Kashmiri people, some people have also raised their concerns on the immoral treatment of the leaders and citizens of the state.
Whatever be the intention behind the Kashmir initiative, the positive or negative results it might bring in the future, and your personal point of view, you can’t deny the brilliance with which it was executed. More than that this was a perfect example of how powerful an army can be when its kingmakers play its part and slowly evolve so that the king can take his place in the back while the kingmakers do his bidding. It might be negative or positive that they achieve depending on their motives and inclinations. But the mechanism is something that has never been seen before in Indian politics.
For the students of strategy and policy-making, this example of kingship, planning, and execution is one to analyse and learn from.