Why Mehbooba Mufti’s first term would be a disaster?
The speculation about the formation of next Government, would never have arose if it was not for the state of Jammu & Kashmir, where the head of state had expired while in the office. It is normal, whoever was chosen as the leader of ruling party, even in a coalition government, would take charge. Of course, who would lead the ruling party can be a matter of discussion, if not squabble within the party itself.
When MG Ramachandran, the then chief minister of Tamil Nadu had died after prolonged illness, his wife was pushed to the front, by the faction that opposed Jayalalitha, who was patronised by the late leader. Janaki, new to the politics was not expected to survive in politics, despite the sympathy factor. In fact, she was used as a temporary arrangement till the time Jayalalitha would be forced to leave the party. But, like the Congress seniors who thought short of Indira Gandhi, these schemers were reduced to minority as the party machinery supported Jayalalitha and in few months, she established herself firmly in the saddle, relegating her rivals in own party to the fringe. But, all was within the party and apart from commenting and ridiculing, the opposition could not do anything.
Even when there is a regular coalition government, none of the coalition parties other than the ruling one would stake claim, fearing to lose the fresh election, if imposed upon them, due to the sympathy factor. But, the case of Jammu and Kashmir, when compared with other states, is as contrast as Jammu and Kashmir themselves. Members of ruling coalition are not even second to the Nitish-Lalu combine, for the fact that both Nitish and Lalu were branches of the same Janata fraternity.
BJP and PDP had their own compulsions, after becoming the two big winners of the assembly elections with no clear majority. While PDP, who considers NC as their main opposition failed to read the writing on the wall had missed Jammu by wide margin had to deal with their nemesis at national stage, BJP surprised at its own performance, fresh from the experience of not forming the government in Delhi assembly had to form a Government at any cost. And thus, the people of Jammu & Kashmir had got a government they have not voted for. The polarisation of votes in three regions of the state, in simple language, en-masse voting of Jammu region in favour of BJP and Congress winning all seats of Ladakh region, had reminded the Kashmiri political parties that there are two more regions of which they never thought of their own, but owned by them.
Mufti, already in the twilight wanted to glow in the spark of power – once more. As expected, the negotiations were hard and lengthy. Despite the common agenda that was shown to the world – the world that is more intelligent than what they consider could realise the marriage of connivance. BJP was thanking its own fortunes that Mufti could prevail over mercurial Mehbooba, who was more fundamentalist in her approach, while Mufti Mohammad Sayeed was grateful to the grit of the new team that was flexible to deal with, despite their known hard positions on many things, including Kashmir.
So, when Mehbooba Mufti refused to take oath immediately after her father’s death, not even BJP was surprised. Though Ram Madhav, the BJP’s in-charge of J&K affairs was away from his regular residence in the national capital, true to his repute, nowhere one can find what he was doing or what his party is thinking, apart from the regular comments from irrelevant spokespersons.
Of course, it was Congress, who had more experience in dealing with the Kashmiri parties. And, the eternal symbol of sacrifice – Sonia Gandhi, who famously denounced power visited Mehbooba, only to inspire her party to release a press statement – that Mehbooba Mufti is not interested in power, and was mourning her father’s demise. Yes, despite whatever one is, the loss of father is something that cannot be replaced by anything – not even by the power. Though history is full of various kings who employed assassinations en-route the throne, it can be certainly said that Mehbooba Mufti doesn’t belong to the category. True to her bereavement, coupled with the unnecessary impingement of various persons external to her family, from the leaders in her own party aspiring to fill the shoes of Mufti to leaders of other parties who suddenly desired to share her personal loss had forced Mehbooba to be incommunicado. But, her isolation only had increased the political grape vine to ferment more.
Meanwhile, there are several rumors floating in the political and news circles that the continuation of the coalition would be subjected to review of the agreed agenda. Whatever she may decide, unless Omar Abdullah decides to support BJP and let the first non-Kashmiri chief minister to function, only Mehbooba Mufti Sayeed is destined to become the chief minister. And it would be suicidal for Omar to join BJP at this moment, as he stands to gain nothing. He, in all probability would opt for fresh elections if forced to, which even PDP may not be averse eying the advantage of sympathy vote. Mehbooba Mufti may consider alternately to form the government with the support of Congress and independents. But, she would definitely not do this, given the fact that like Tamil Nadu, the parties in Jammu & Kashmir have an approach of being friendly with the central government. And it pays to keep BJP in good humour. If she forms the government with Congress and cries for funds, she would echo the wails of Mamta Banerjee, and Mehbooba Mufti is shrewd enough not to commit such mistake.
However, the history was never kind to those who rode to power for the first time. The amateurishness of the new leader, who normally was full of ideals and new ideas would come fore within months creating a stalemate between the polity and administration.
The history is full of such leaders. NT Rama Rao, who was the original decimator of Congress for he trounced it within nine months after starting the party, had various schemes that were introduced for the first time in the state. Schemes like Single Window and developing huge bus stands and other infrastructure were replicated at national level and in other states. But, he was notorious for his whims he carried from his earlier career and his family members, who ensured he could only rule one full term in his life.
Jayalalitha was another example of disaster during first rule. Despite being a rich woman, she had to fight a case of disproportionate assets worth few lakhs, thanks to the persistence of India’s new hero – Dr Subramanian Swamy. But, it was her personal whims and fancies that forced her out in the next elections.
Even Mayawati, who run the government with an iron fist and ensure law and order in the otherwise chaos filled state, could not win the second election because of her mammoths.
Shivsena’s first rule of Maharashtra was so disaster that despite coming to rule in the name of Maharashtra, Congress-NCP combine could rule the state for three consecutive terms. Though Shivsena could rule BMC for nearly two decades, the sad state of Mumbai roads reflect why they were pushed to second spot and BJP gained, even when people rejected Congress-NCP combine.
Given her mercurial nature, Mehbooba Mufti is not only difficult to deal with. Her sympathies always lied with the separatists. Unlike her father, she always can expect for a second term –though it is not guaranteed. And it is for sure, she would be playing hard even to become CM, and then to run the government like the way Asiya Andrabi would run. She would push BJP to such an extent, it would be impossible for BJP to tow her line, for the fear of losing their image in the nation, at large. Meanwhile, the chocolate boy of Kashmir, Omar Abdullah would sharp all his axes, knives and needles to grab the power in the next elections.
Given the complexity of Jammu & Kashmir, it is not an easy state to administer with. And now, with BJP and PDP at the opposite of the administration spectrum, it would be more difficult. For one, PDP was and is an active sympathiser of separatists, while BJP claims to represent the national integrational phenomena. Only common bond between Mehbooba and Modi is they both advocate for ‘growth’ however ambiguous the term may be.
But, given the current scenario of ISIS gaining support in the valley, it is time to play hard ball. While BJP would be demanding PDP to be firm in dealing with all forces that represent ISIS and use terror as a tool. This would result if not immediately, in the next six months in a repeat of 2010 unrest that resulted in large scale loss of lives. And, Mehbooba Mufti would be in the place of Omar Abdullah forever explaining why and how she failed to maintain law and order. But, she would never be discusssing, why and how the situation deteriorated to such an extent and what was her contribution!
While the unrest described above is in the cities, borders of Kashmir would be repeatedly targeted by Pakistan, even if there is no infiltration – simply killing common citizens. As Mehbooba won’t have control over such a situation (of course, neither BJP will have) she blames BJP for its failure at centre, knowing fully well that even BJP cannot do anything. Despite the Pakistani Army got warned by the Americans, they cannot abandon the annual rituals of cross-border firing and infiltration. And, the increasing presence of India in Afghanistan is a matter of concern to them, as it was evident from the Pathankot attacks and such attacks would only increase with time.
And increasing unrest in Kashmir would affect its main source of income – tourism. When the pockets of the government are affected, the situation would be worse. Though there would be developmental projects that would be sanctioned by the centre, each and every sanction would be debated between BJP and PDP as both would vie for the credit and where the project should be situated. BJP would want all three regions grow equally, but PDP can never allow this. Mehbooba Mufti will have to show to her clan of supporters she could deliver them more than what BJP could deliver to the Hindu dominated Jammu region and almost forgotten Ladakh people.
There would come few situations when BJP would not support PDP in the legislative assembly, and PDP would be forced to take support of Congress and independents, who would be more than happy to see fissures in the coalition. Congress, an expert of breaking parties and alliances would even try to break PDP, if Mehbooba completes one year comfortably, but will never rock the government in the last one year. As such, Congress has nothing to lose in Kashmir except to expose BJP if the government could not survive its full term. BJP would find itself between rock and a hard place. In the entire game, if there is anyone who stands to lose, it is BJP and so, it is going to suffer Mehbooba Mufti till the next elections and will be praying that the coalition would end soon, with least blame to them.