Unfortunately, any positive signals that might have been adduced from the caption could be negated by uncertainty and speculation over what lies in store for turmoil-ridden Jammu and Kashmir. In normal course a spell of Governor’s rule would have been welcome to de-pollute the administrative machinery of the foul air created by the misrule of the “coalition of contradictions”, but with the term of the seasoned Mr NN Vohra running out the situation has been rendered fragile.

Alas, the Centre’s selection of Governors has ever been questionable ~ no need to name names or cite examples of dubious conduct ~ and so there is apprehension over what course the next Governor may take. The “buzz” is that Mr Vohra may get another extension, a brief one, till the Amarnath Yatra concludes ~ no official word was available from Raisina Hill at the time of writing this commentary. Some names are doing the rounds but it would be premature and unfair to indulge in speculation: there are suspicions that the BJP timed its pull-out to facilitate a new appointment.

Finding a political leader acceptable to the divided polity in the state will be difficult, and most bureaucrats are now politically-flavoured. A military personality would have own image problems. Still, it would be safe to say another Jagmohan would be akin to re-visiting disaster. Mehbooba Mufti has already cautioned against an overly muscular security policy and treating J&K as “enemy territory” ~ many, including her political rivals and a large section of the Valley’s populace, would echo those sentiments. There can be no underestimating the criticality of the upcoming appointment: can Mr Narendra Modi exhibit the statesmanship required for an appropriate selection? Or, will once again prevail the prejudices that have afflicted other recent deployments in Raj Bhawans? The Governor of J&K has a unique role and responsibilities, customary loyalties will simply not suffice.

Little purpose would be served by attempting to analyse what went wrong these past three years, little went right. Even the timing of the BJP-PDP divorce reflected the unprincipled nature of the marriage, and the home ministry’s declining to play the role of fairy-godmother.

It was a collective government and BJP’s Ram Madhav betrays a lack of responsibility when flaying the crumbling of security as an alibi for pulling-out. More valid is the speculation that the BJP has other plans for 2019. In the ensuing mess, this newspaper finds itself constrained to endorse Rahul Gandhi’s charge that the “agenda for alliance” proved an agenda for ruination. If there is any larger signal it is that pocket calculators have no place in forming alliances ~ witness the chaos in Bengaluru.

Back to J&K. It has been a sustained and collective failure of India’s political establishment. A failure which has increased the space for separatist, azadi, and militant elements ~ why only point cowardly accusing fingers towards Pakistan?