Mehbooba CM no more: A doomed coalition all along
When the People's Democratic Party (PDP) – Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government was formed in 2015, it began with a due sense of trepidation about its political and ideological fallout for the state. The coalition’s single-most redeeming feature was the promise it held of the economic recovery of the state and the hope of a political process towards resolution of the Kashmir issue.
The expectation was not unfounded. The Agenda of Alliance forged by the two parties contained development and political commitments to the effect. But a few months into its term political and ideological confrontations between the partners took centrestage, almost hobbling the government. It didn’t make any headway with even the then urgent rehabilitation of the flood victims, taking as long as 15 months to fulfil.
The government’s fall in the wake of the BJP pulling out its support to Mehbooba Mufti has come as an inglorious end to an alliance long teetering on the edge. However, nobody in the state could have imagined even in their wildest dreams that it will be the BJP, which will quit the alliance.
This was deemed to be the prerogative of the PDP only which had enabled a Hindu nationalist party to rule India’s only Muslim majority state for the first time in the past 70 years.
So, the BJP move is certain to have left PDP in an embarrassing position. The party had gone against its long-standing ideological position in Kashmir and the nature of its electoral mandate to ally with the BJP. It stuck to the alliance even through five-month-long unrest in 2016 when a New Delhi backed hard-line response to the protests left around 100 people killed and several hundred completely or partially blinded.
For Mehbooba, the loss will be greater. The alliance has left her political reputation in tatters. A reputation she had built brick by brick.
At one time she successfully incarnated as a leader who was a relatively more credible mainstream political proponent of a shade of Kashmiri nationalism willing to settle for a respectable political deal within the Indian Constitution.
But, in power, Mehbooba burnt herself out far sooner than even her predecessor Omar Abdullah. And now with the BJP leaving her in the lurch, she hasn’t been left a place to hide.
Though there was little that was visible on the outside, tense disagreements over the handling of the worsening situation in the state marked the coalition over the past one-and-a-half month.
It began with the Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti’s call for a unilateral ceasefire in the Valley, which the state BJP initially said it didn’t support but later centre went ahead and announced the halt in operations against militants during holy month of Ramzan. And it ended with the killing of journalist Shujaat Bukhari, which apparently proved a last straw.
The state BJP has revealed these differences in a detailed statement shortly after the party withdrew its support.
“Insistence of the PDP for extension of ceasefire and a soft approach towards militants, Pakistan and separatists was only hurting the nationalistic sentiments, not only in Jammu and Kashmir but in the whole of the country,” BJP spokesman Sunil Sethi said.
“PDP had underestimated the resolve of Bhartiya Janata Party in thinking that the PDP will have its way in all matters. The door has been rightly shown to it and all forces inimical to national interest that there is strong resolve of nation to stay together and to be ready for any sacrifice for the unity and integrity of the country.”
The party has also revealed its future plan of action in the state: “Now is the time of an all-out war with militants and their supporters and they will not find a place to hide and run. It was highly unfortunate that our partner was always trying to tie our hands from taking strong measures against enemies of the nation.
“Expecting that a mighty India will bow down to have dialogues with separatists or Pakistan and its armed stooges is indicative that it (PDP) was living in a fool's paradise.”
Nobody supports Mehbooba
Both the National Conference and the Congress have refused to extend support to the PDP.
“The National Conference has neither been approached by any party nor would they offer their support to any party,” NC Vice-President Omar Abdullah told reporters after meeting Governor NN Vohra.
Omar supported Governor’s rule in the state and said he had assured Governor of his party’s support. Omar also batted for early elections.
Similarly state Congress president Ghulam Ahmad Mir termed the alliance PDP-BJP alliance unholy. "It was expected to break from day one. They had betrayed the people of the state and supporters of the respective parties. They sought votes on opposing agendas," Mir said.
Senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad has already ruled out support to the PDP.
The NC has 15 seats and Congress 12 in the J&K Assembly.