The sheer number of variables make the politics of J & K pretty interesting. The majority community of India becomes a minority in the state and the vice versa. Further to this, the multiple layers of minority deprivation are deeply penetrated in the masses of the state due to the extraordinary diversity in location, identity, political ideology and economic disparity. From dynasty politics to democratic parties sweeping elections and squarely hung parliaments, the state has seen it all.
J & K is the rare state in which both regional parties have allied with the two main national party and no one is politically untouchable. While Sheikh Abdullah was more than natural ally of Nehru, BJP’s founder Dr Syama Prasad Mukherjee had died in the state fighting for the party’s ideology of Ek desh mein do Vidhan, do Pradhan aur Do Nishan nahi chalega. This hilly state has the emotional connect with both the main political parties of India.
Fast forward and coming straight to 2014-15 assembly election where BJP created history by winning 24 out of 87 assembly seats and became the second largest party after PDP. BJP swept Jammu region while PDP swept the valley. The state assembly was hung as National conference & congress alliance was defeated. Hard negotiations were undergone among all parties and due to larger than life images of Modi and Mufti Syed, BJP and PDP joined hands to form the govt. Mufti Syed called it a watershed moment in contemporary Indian political history.
Let us look the negotiations between two parties in more detail. Ram Madhav, a RSS pracharak and now BJP spokesperson and Haseeb Drabu, earlier the chairman of J & K bank and now PDP MLA negotiated the terms of a BJP-PDP alliance for 55 days. A framework of Common minimum program (CMP) was laid by Dabru while the draft was painstakingly worked and reworked by Madhav. The main thrust points of the negotiations were western Pakistan refugees, talks with the Hurriyat, withdrawal of AFSPA or Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, delimitation of Article 370 which gives J&K a special status. Giving citizenship rights to western Pakistan refugees was a highly emotive issue for the BJP, however as it required constitutional amendment with the support of at least 60 MLAs which was not going to happen in present situation, BJP ceded some ground. On AFSPA, the CMP agreed that it should be removed but the timing of it was rested on the hands of central govt. BJP was in centre has toughened its stand in due course of time. On Article 370, the CMP was very smoothly worded under the guidance of Jaitley who avoided any direct mention. On the last outstanding point, talk with Hurriyat, no party was ready to recede. Lastly, talk with hurriyat was included in the CMP with an extra line of in the context of talk of Vajpayee govt with hurriyat.
The negotiations were sealed, gifts were exchanged and Mufti became CM of the state. The BJP had arrived in the state finally and their century did not waste in a losing cause. With that BJP had also given a hint to the people of Jammu that their party will not be hiding behind the ideologies but will run a govt. Moreover, the political mileage out of allying with a Muslim political party had a long term effect. The PDP got the CM post for complete tenure with no provision of rotating CM and took a sweet revenge with congress who had preferred National conference over PDP in past. For both, the BJP-PDP alliance was a complete win-win.
Though, it was never expected to be a smooth sailing. The cracks had started appearing in initial few months of the coalition. Leave alone the major issues, the discomfort on smaller issues like construction of a medical campus to beef bans were evident. Amidst the speculations of “Will the government survive?” the massive central funding – estimated at Rs 1 lac crore kept the govt afloat.
The gaps started widening as some unexpected events unfolded. On October 30 last year, the funeral of a Pakistani militant, Abu Qasim in south Kashmir attracted lacs of people most of them aged between 20 to 30 years. The procession was by far the biggest for a foreign militant started with a trail of over 50,000 people. The toned down response of government with PDP minister describing it a radicalization of youth and hence those should not be squarely blamed, evoked many eyebrows within BJP who were vocally condemning it as an act of anti-national. Earlier in a similar case of clash of ideologies, the Kashmiri separatist Masrat Alam was released without keeping centre in loop. It left the majority of the BJP fuming.
Many people in Kashmir Valley called this BJP-PDP alliance ‘unholy’. Political pundits across the state termed it as ‘political suicide’ by PDP. Even there were murmurs within PDP that after the BJP-PDP alliance they are unsure how to face the voters in their constituencies. Unfazed by all these Mufti Syed made the BJP-PDP alliance moving on the promise of the economic turnaround and job creations.
Then the hurricane struck, Mufti Syed passed away on 7th January due to multi-organ failure leaving the state and BJP-PDP alliance on its own. The death of Mufti Syed created a huge void in the BJP-PDP alliance. His heir-apparent Mehbooba Mufti has re-opened the Pandora box of negotiations to tilt the balance in her favor. Mehbooba also feels that this is the time to resurrect what lost. In the long ‘to-do list’ for BJP, Mehbooba has demanded a written assurance on no change in article 370 of the constitution and revocation of AFSPA.
The politics of the state is on full display. Mehbooba has a long political career ahead and she appears to be ready to sacrifice the CM post for safeguarding the political ideology of her party. BJP has proved themselves a go-getter and a formidable force of the state but in the process has receded a lot of ground. They have nothing to prove more and would like to wait and watch. Omar Abdullah has taken the role of referee in the ongoing tussle of BJP-PDP blowing the whistle on twitter at the right time. The decimated congress is trying desperately to be a part of any alliance and can architect a very unlikely grand PDP-NC-Congress alliance. Amidst all this, a comfort can be taken from the past when the president rule (governor Jagmohan) on the state was better than most of the government.
As an engineering graduate, it is very easy for me to calculate the number of combinations for the alliance in the state but as a political enthusiast it is equally tough to find the right combinations. Given the fact that the election in J & K occurs after every 6 years, the wait could be more tiring than usual.