Break up of alliance in J-K reveals BJP weakness

Last Updated: Sat, Jun 23, 2018 13:40 hrs
Mehbooba Mufti meets PM Modi over Kashmir unrest

Former Jammu & Kashmir Chief Minister and leader of the National Conference, Omar Abdullah called for the dissolution of the state legislative assembly and fresh elections. This came in response to former Deputy Chief Minister Kavinder Gupta’s comments on his party “working on something” with regards to the political situation in the state. Mr. Abdullah declined to form a new government saying the party has no mandate.

On Tuesday, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) president Mehbooba Mufti submitted a letter to the governor her stating her resignation as Chief Minister of Jammu & Kashmir. She alluded to the centre’s ‘muscular policy’. The four year ruling alliance thus came to an end. The BJP and the PDP of late weren’t exactly seeing eye to eye on issues such as separatists and local militants.

Some of the victories that the PDP are lauding are Prime Minister Modi visiting Pakistan and dialogue between the two countries through the Home Minister. Mufti claims her government took on issues such as cow vigilantism and addressing the issues of minorities. Taking a bird’s eye view, a state that has security problems cannot have a leadership void. The Times of India editorial states that as the two parties split, there shouldn’t be a leadership vacuum; with governor’s rule inevitable –

“While this (governor’s rule) may help step up security operations, the nature of militancy has changed in the last few years with Kashmiri nationalism being replaced by a growing Islamist identity”.

“It’s possible that J&K assembly polls will be held along with general elections. But a prolonged period of governor’s rule would be a bad call as the state desperately needs a functioning government”.

The BJP and PDP coming together did not seem a right fit. The right wing Hindu politics of the BJP contradicts the established PDP ideology. It was clear the BJP wanted a more hard-line approach to militancy and did not want anything to do with the separatists. There were fault lines along the way; there were reports that the accused in the Kathua rape and murder of a Muslim girl had supporters from the state BJP party. The support base in the state was upset about the manner in which the State police went after the accused.

The parties came together it seems from the point of view of its optics. The BJP could have seen this as an opportune time for the split, perhaps seeing the PDP as a liability not only in the state but also with the 2019 elections coming up. Perhaps it was initiating the inevitable, but doing it on their terms; instead of waiting for the PDP to call out the BJP ministers and asking them to quit, the BJP pulled the plug before they were embarrassed.

In 2014, the very partner the BJP aligned with was going from rally to rally encouraging people to vote in large numbers to ensure that the BJP does not come to power in the state. After the results, it was a 180. R Jagannathan, Editorial Director, Swarajya, in a column, poses the question as to what the BJP represents post the split with the PDP –

“The BJP must define itself as a party for Indic peoples and cultures, because if it claims to represent everybody, it will end up representing nobody—as happened in Jammu and Kashmir”.

According to Jagannathan, the BJP gave up its demands which were primarily abolition of article 370, abandoning article 35A which gives the J&K legislature the power to decide who are permanent residents of the state and grant them special rights and privileges. The column points out a fundamental flaw in the BJP’s thinking when it entered into an alliance with the PDP –

“At the very least, it should have got Mufti to toe its line on national security and offer a commitment to campaign for J&K being an integral part of India… It should also have taken a strong stand against jihadi Islamism, but Mufti actually went the other way in asking India repeatedly to talk to Pakistan”.

Looking ahead, with the 2019 elections approaching and in the grand scheme of things, BJP President Amit Shah has been eager to reach out to allies who have criticized the government; such as meeting Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray earlier this month. The Sena mouthpiece, Saamna, called the Prime Minister and the party Chie Shah willful defaulters after the meeting with Thackeray, criticizing the way the party forms alliances. The editorial went on to state that in 2019, “the Shiv Sena will fight alone”.

In March, the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) Chief Chandrababu Naidu quit the Union Cabinet and put the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance at risk after Finance Minister Arun Jaitley rejected the 'special status' category for Andhra Pradesh. In Bihar, if there is a glimmer of a possibility of Nitish Kumar turning his back, it would be worrisome to say the least.

Going forward, with governor’s rule now likely, the BJP could rule the state through the governor; appoint individuals of its choice as key advisers to the Governor who would act as de facto Ministers in the State. Opposition parties are uniting to mount a challenge next year, the breaking of up of this alliance might give the opposition a boost.

More columns by Varun Sukumar