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J&K stand-off: why continuation of President's Rule suits Mehbooba Mufti

Wajahat Qazi | Updated on: 14 February 2017, 5:34 IST

PDP chairperson Mehbooba Mufti has put the ball in the BJP's court by saying that "the Centre must initiate Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) to create an atmosphere for formation of the government in Jammu and Kashmir".

But as the suspense over government formation drags on, there is speculation regarding the reasons behind Mehbooba's reluctance.

The truth is that Mehbooba is facing a serious dilemma. She has a number of options but each one of them comes at a cost.

Also read - Mehbooba Mufti's dilemma: to be with BJP or to remain relevant in Kashmir

It must also be understood that Mehbooba's dilemma is embedded in a larger framework of Indian federalism. States perpetually have to struggle to eke out maximum leverage and room for maneuverability from the Centre.

The space for states becomes even more constricted when they are financially dependent on the Centre. This certainly is the case in Jammu and Kashmir, especially after the devastating floods of 2014.

Given these constraints, Mehbooba basically has 3 options.

1. Form the government, go for elections in 6 months

This can be disastrous for her party. The PDP will no doubt receive a drubbing and lose both in terms of seats and votes. It will be out of power for 6 years, which is a long time, long enough to make leaders rethink their association with the party, defect or even float their own parties. This option carries risks.

2. Continue with the alliance and finish the term

The second option would be to continue with the alliance after extracting concessions from the BJP - such as a financial package and governance related remedial measures. But if history is any indication, financial packages do not really translate into political gains in Kashmir. Besides, it wouldn't remove the PDP's stigma of having brought the BJP to power in the state for the first time.

Also read - J&K logjam: BJP desperate to save alliance but won't give in to PDP's "blackmail"

3. Extended President's rule

By elimination, it leaves Mehbooba with option 3 - creating conditions for extended Presidents rule in Jammu and Kashmir. This option would be the most prudent for PDP. It will "kill many birds with one stone". First, it will allow Mehbooba to dissociate with the BJP and earn brownie points among the voters for "putting the saffron party in its its place".

She also relieves herself from the burden of governance. This would give her the time and energy to focus on consolidating the party. This is particularly crucial given the erosion in the PDP's support base following its alliance with the BJP and buzz of rebellion within its ranks.

Even if Mehbooba extracts a financial package from the Centre, it won't help her politically

In the process, she renders her opposition, mainly the National Conference, toothless. They wont have the privilege of being the opposition in the legislature. Rather when fresh elections are held, the NC would have very few issues to go to the electorate with.

This option would give Mehbooba the chance of projecting that J&K is actually being ruled by the BJP-led Central government. And if anything goes wrong, Mehbooba can play the opposition and blame the Centre.

This would help keep PDP battle ready for the elections, whenever they are held.

If Mehbooba is keeping silent with the third plan in her mind, then there would be no doubt regarding her political astuteness. She would have a long future in the state's politics.

Edited by Aditya Menon

More in Catch - Mehbooba plays hardball. Why it suits her to break with BJP

Meet Mehbooba Mufti, the likely new Chief Minister of J&K. Cold sweat, BJP?

Post Mufti, PDP-BJP coalition is a sinking ship. Can Mehbooba rescue it?

First published: 3 February 2016, 22:20 IST
 
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