Mehbooba’s hesitation in assuming power in Jammu Kashmir!


 

Mehbooba’s hesitation in assuming power in Jammu Kashmir!

-Dr. Abdul Ruff

________

 

Jammu Kashmir, already troubled,  is now without a government for days as the CM designate Mehbooba Mufti, daughter of former CM Mufti Mohammad Sayeed who passed away last week, is not showing any inclination to hurriedly assume chief ministership in Srinagar. She is mourning the death of her father cum political mentor.

Since then, the future of the BJP-PDP alliance has been under a cloud with Mehbooba Mufti maintaining an uneasy silence over the fate of the coalition government.
It is certain that the PDP has lost support and credibility among Kashmiri Muslims because the party after talking with Congress party which they consider lesser evil than BJP, eventually opted for the Hindutva BJP with hidden agenda for the valley. Muslim voters were disappointed with the PDP decision to popularize BJP in Kashmir valley as well. Kashmiri Muslims are afraid of BJP saffronizing the valley in step by step manner as it has done in India mainland.

Within the PDP as well resistance to PDP-BJP alliance is growing and many MLA want a change in the. Alliance, moving away from BJP. Apparently, Mehbooba is eager to assure Kashmiris of safety and security on a permanent basis.

On 8 January, when former chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s funeral procession passed through his hometown Bijbahera, an unusual sight shocked many of his followers. But Kashmiris seem to have been angry with their leader Mufti and others. When the 79-year-old doyen of Kashmir politics died, many had expected Bijbahera to be completely shut down in deference to the departed leader. But as the procession inched through to Badshahi Bagh, the ancestral graveyard of the Mufti’s family, some of the shops were open, and in many places it was business as usual.

The Kashmiri leader had lost some of his popularity and emotional appeal. This gave party leaders and MPs Muzaffar Hassan Baig and Tariq Hamid Karra, who have been critical of the alliance with the BJP, to once again call for a review. According to sources, the two MPs and a few MLAs pointed out to party chief Mehbooba Mufti that the PDP is losing support among voters and it would be a good idea to reconsider the decision.

Since then, the future of the BJP-PDP alliance has been under a cloud with Mehbooba Mufti maintaining an uneasy silence over the fate of the coalition government.
The latest impression gained is that the PDP will now review the alliance. Senior PDP minister Naeem Akhtar said : “We will review the progress on the agenda of alliance we drafted. It was a common vision of the Prime Minister and Mufti sahib. We are reviewing how much of it has been achieved.” He said a decision on the review of the PDP alliance with the BJP rested with Mehbooba Mufti.

Against the will of the majority people of Kashmir, the PDP-BJP coalition started on the high note of return of power projects. But the plan was scuttled when Union minister of power (state) Piyush Goyal reportedly said the ministry can’t transfer power projects owned by the National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC) to Jammu and Kashmir because of “legal and financial problems.”

In politics, the safest way to predict an outcome is to consider all the possibilities and then discard the ones that look unviable. So, it would be a good idea to look at Mehbooba Mufti’s options to predict her next move.

BJP expects Mehbooba break the alliance and call for dissolution of the Assembly, precipitating a mid-term election. But, that may not happen because her party’s popularity isn’t really at the peak it witnessed during the elections in 2014. And it is unlikely the PDP will repeat its performance and emerge as the single-largest party or retain the 28 seats it has.

Kashmiri Muslims expect that Mehbooba to stitch an alliance with the Congress, which has 12 seats in the Assembly. But this will force PDP to look for the support of at least five MLAs more for a majority in the Assembly. Sources in the PDP say that at least five MLAs are willing to join the government. These include Engineer Rashid, Hakeem Yasin, Yusuf Tarigami, Pawan Gupta and an MLA from Sajjad Lone’s party.

Commentators argue that a Congress-PDP alliance with the support of independent MLAs is a risky proposition because they can demand too much and walk out of the coalition any time if the government refuses to oblige them. Hindutva strategists argue, rather warn that the government would be in a fix if a hardliner like Rashid Engineer brings in a bill for referendum on independence. Also, BJP supporters say since the PDP is already struggling for funds from the Centre in spite of an alliance with the BJP leaving the Hindutva outfit would not be economically viable because BJP rules the centre and should release funds.

The BJP sources say Mehbooba is playing hardball and her decision to leave BJP would not be in the interests of Kashmir. A government without the BJP as a partner would definitely be starved of money and support from Delhi. So, a powerless Congress-PDP government with independent MLAs, therefore, appears risky. That, according to BJP stalwarts, leaves PDP with just one viable option: Continue the alliance with the BJP and hope that things get better and the opinion of the people changes.

The PDP is keeping its partner BJP on the edge to ensure that it gets Delhi to fulfill all the promises the BJP had made before finalizing the common minimum program (CMP) of the alliance. These include a financial package for flood relief and development, and return of two power projects — 390 MW Dulhasti and 480 MW Uri I—from NHPC to the State.

As the PDP toughened its stand on government formation in Jammu Kashmir saying it will “review the progress of the agenda of alliance”, the Modi government (Centre) rushed Finance Secretary Ratan P Watal to meet Mehbooba Mufti. The PDP believes that the coalition government has not followed the “agenda of alliance” drafted by the two parties. “The agenda has to be implemented,” senior PDP leader and former education minister Naeem Akhtar. “The power projects have not been returned, there has been no progress on vacation of land by the Army, on smart cities, and internal dimension of Kashmir. Jammu and Kashmir is a national concern, you can’t deal with it so casually,” he said. Sources in PDP said the party is upset over the last-minute changes to the special package for Jammu and Kashmir. The Centre, PDP sources claimed, not only reduced the flood relief and rehabilitation package but also left out Rs 40,000 crore, earmarked for power projects, from the package. The PDP’s tough talk has rattled the BJP leadership and Watal was sent to Srinagar.

Another senior PDP leader said: “We formed an alliance with the BJP in the most difficult circumstances and reposed trust in the BJP leadership. We feel that trust has been betrayed. There was clear agreement on the transfer of power projects in the agenda for alliance but the Centre removed that from the package. The tunnel on the Mughal road, compensation for land with Central agencies are other areas.’’ There is also a division within the PDP regarding the party’s handling of the coalition after Mufti’s death. A section of the leadership close to the BJP believes that raising such issues before government formation is “counter-productive”.

The Modi government and BJP leaders are guarded in their response. State BJP president Sat Sharma also refused comment until the PDP made its position official.

Mufti’s family is in mourning and so Mehbooba is not speaking. .
Perhaps, Mehbooba Mufti now wants the BJP to honour the promise and transfer these projects to the state. And she wants the assurance of either Prime Minister Narendra Modi or one of his senior Cabinet colleagues that the CMP would be implemented in letter and spirit.

The PDP is known to bargain hard. Mufti Mohammad Sayeed had taken almost two months to say yes to an alliance with the BJP after the elections had returned a hung Assembly. But Mehbooba is deeply concerned about the mood of Kashmiris. Insiders say she is keeping the BJP guessing also to ensure that the terms of the alliance are not renegotiated and dissenters like Baig and Karra are silenced.

Ambition is not a bad thing, manipulating masses for one’s own end is objectionable. This norm is applicable to Hindutva parties that seem to destabilize Kashmir valley by communal coloring – worse than what it is today. BJP is openly opposed to Indian secular democracy as it is misusing the Hindus as their trusted vote bank.
The death of JK CM Mufti Mohammad has helped the PDP to gauge the Kashmiri mood. If Mehbooba takes appropriate steps, that would be good for the party and Kashmir. Coalition by ignoring the wishes of people would work against the party and Kashmiri nation and without moral sanction of the voters no government can survive long.

 

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