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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2957

Kashmir In A Limbo

By Allabaksh - Syndicate Features

While the Modi government busies itself in an unseemly political war in Arunachal Pradesh because of alleged defiance of ‘beef’ ban and a reported plot by the ousted chief minister to harm the state governor and his family, it would be well advised to attend to a more urgent problem in another state functioning without a chief minister: Jammu and Kashmir.

Though some problem could always be foreseen when the two parties, BJP and PDP, joined hand over a year ago, not many would have anticipated that the death of the chief minister, Mufti Mohammed Sayeed in December, 2015, would plunge the state in to political uncertainty.

It was presumed that Mufti’s daughter, Mehbooba, would succeed him without much fuss. The death of the chief minister was not seen as posing a threat to the PDP-BJP alliance, though admittedly it never appeared to be smooth. The BJP has obviously been watching the situation but has not disclosed how it will deal with it. Does the BJP want to quit the alliance, or will it sort things out with Mehbooba who has reportedly put certain conditions before she agrees to lead the alliance.

The two main Opposition parties, the National Conference and the Congress, have lost no time in embarrassing the ruling combine. The NC has been teasing and taunting the ruling combination by half-heartedly offering support in case the BJP withdraws from the coalition. In the polarised politics of Jammu & Kashmir, it is unlikely that any other permutation-combination will succeed in forming a stable government if the PDP-BJP divorce, indeed, takes place.

Voices have been raised to demand mid-term polls in Kashmir. But will that bring stability to the state if the verdict is once again the most likely fractured one? On the other hand, the uneasy PDP-BJP coalition, if it remains intact, may well last its full term and by showing the necessary political foresight might even end up lessening the tension that is often seen lurking in the border state.

The PDP-BJP coalition was formed after prolonged and excruciating talks within the two parties and between them. A sort of common programme that spoke of a vision for J&K finally sealed the alliance. It, however, did not help in narrowing the sharp differences between the new allies on certain major issues.

It was clear that after the fractured verdict, the BJP was more keen to form a coalition with the PDP than the other way round. This was because the BJP was and has been on a mission to spread in all parts of the country, including territories that have not been very favourable to it.

The BJP accepted the reality of the PDP being the larger partner. It also implied that the BJP would suppress some of its more ‘nationalistic’ instincts like opposing special status for J&K, and the ‘no-to-talks’ plank with pro-Pakistan separatists. It was also aware that the PDP wanted the army presence in the state reduced and the AFSPA withdrawn from as many areas as possible.

What we saw since the formation of the government in Jammu and Kashmir was that more often than not the two coalition partners were at daggers drawn. The problem was understandable: neither party could back down from its hard stand on issues like the state’s status, talks with the separatists and the army presence because they appeal to different constituencies.

What must have disappointed many was that despite a reduction in militancy in the state, development activities have been scarce. Natural disasters did not see the state machinery at its best. Above all, the sense of alienation in the people of the Valley remained as high as ever. More shocking have been reports of youth from the Valley being ill-treated in other parts of the country, especially on college and university campuses.

The PDP-BJP differences did boil over many times even when the Mufti was alive. But he had sufficient experience to not let them go out of control. His daughter, the presumptive heir, is impetuous and cannot act like her father who had a much higher stature not only in the state but the country.

The BJP should know and understand very well that Mehbooba is a different person. She and her party, minus the Mufti, have no future in the state by accepting the BJP outlook in matters relating to Jammu and Kashmir. Mufti Sayeed could get tough with the separatist, she cannot.

This is not to say that the BJP must fully accept everything that Mehbooba demands by way of ‘assurances’ on reducing the army presence, withdrawing AFSPA and talking to the separatists. A give and take is part of everyday politics. But here again a big hurdle can be visualized.

The BJP’s hard stance on matters relating to Kashmir is part of its self-proclaimed image of a party of ‘patriots’ and ‘true nationalists’. Without a ‘tough’ visage, the BJP fears its following in the rest of the country might shrink.

The only way to surmount the problem is a no-holds-barred ‘dialogue’ between the leadership of the two parties—away from publicity. The BJP has to realize that time has come for it to demonstrate that it is really becoming a ‘different’ party, different from its reputation of being a party driven by a majoritarian and jingoistic outlook. That will make the PDP more amenable to listen to whatever the BJP says if the deadlock over government formation has to be broken.

The alternative of another assembly poll might not help the present coalition. Of course, there is no guarantee that one or both of the main Opposition parties will win the next round. But where the PDP-BJP combine enjoys an advantage is that both have very distinct, if not polarized, following in the state and only these two parties can narrow the gap between the two distinct groups to ensure a better future for J&K.

- Asian Tribune -

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