The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) that had thrown a surprise three years ago by forging an alliance to form the government in Jammu and Kashmir on 1 March 2015 are gradually drifting away from each other because of increasing differences.
The coalition government led by Mehbooba Mufti had a couple of days ago almost reached a point of breaking on the issue of certain BJP ministers supporting the demand for a CBI probe into the rape-murder of a minor girl in Kathua district. However, the issue was resolved by none less than Prime Minister Narendra Modi who intervened and dropped his party’s two ministers from Mehbooba’s cabinet for having created the controversy.
However, another controversy has now been triggered off on the issue of Mehbooba asking Modi to order a unilateral ceasefire against terrorists during the upcoming holy month of Ramzan and the Amarnath pilgrimage. The J&K unit of BJP has put its foot down and disassociated itself from Mehbooba’s demand, stressing that such a one-sided move was not in the interest of the country as the Army and other security forces have achieved dominance over the terrorists who have been holed up in certain areas in the valley. The Opposition parties, including the National Conference, have grabbed the opportunity to criticise Mehbooba.
It is being alleged that Mehbooba is playing to the galleries by raising such a demand to retrieve her party’s political ground that has been greatly eroded in Kashmir due to her alliance with the BJP.
The coalition government faced a lot of humiliation last week when a young tourist from Chennai was killed due to stone pelting in Srinagar. The incident has been widely condemned and Mehbooba, who had recently withdrawn police cases against about 10,000 stone-pelters, had to cut a sorry figure.
The alliance between the two parties was tailored by her father, the late Mufti Sayeed, who was considered a shrewd Kashmiri politician but immediately after taking oath as chief minister he said that the tie-up between the PDP and BJP was like a meeting of the North and South poles. The Mufti died a year after the alliance and Mehbooba became chief minister.
Over the passage of time, both parties have started realising that the alliance has cost them dearly as they were losing influence in their respective constituencies. While the PDP had won majority seats in the Kashmir valley, it was for the first time in electoral history that the BJP won 25 seats in the Jammu region and achieved the position of coming into power by supporting the PDP.The electorate in Jammu and the Kashmir valley were in a way feeling cheated because the PDP and BJP had hyped up their campaign against each other in areas of their influence. Modi had himself spoken a lot against the PDP in his high-pitched assembly election campaign in Jammu.
Mehbooba was also facing problems within the PDP after she sacked her trusted minister Haseeb Drabu after he said in a debate that the Kashmir problem was not political but a social issue. Drabu was instrumental in drafting the agenda of alliance with the BJP and had been playing the role of fire-fighter whenever any dispute arose between the two parties.
The PDP leadership, including Mehbooba’s uncle Sartaj Madni, have started publicly issuing veiled threats to the central leadership of BJP for having failed to implement many of the promises made in the agenda of alliance. The unimplemented points being prominently highlighted by PDP leaders and Mehbooba herself include initiating of talks with the separatists and reopening of dialogue process with Pakistan to restore peace in Kashmir.
Amid the growing differences between the two parties, political observers have pinned hopes on the upcoming visit of Modi to J&K on 19 May when he will touch all three regions of the state ~ Jammu, Srinagar and Ladakh ~ to inaugurate or lay foundation stones of various projects. There is an expectation that he might take the opportunity to clear the air of mistrust that has engulfed this sensitive state.