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Towards a government in J-K?

Arati R Jerath |

A quiet meeting in Delhi last week between former J & K finance minister Haseeb Drabu and BJP general secretary in charge of Ram Madhav has sparked off talk that a section of Mehbooba Mufti’s PDP may break off and form an alliance with the BJP for an alternative government in the state.

It was a one-on-one meeting and the buzz about a split in the PDP has only grown louder since then. It may be remembered that Drabu and Ram Madhav were the chief architects of the uneasy PDP-BJP alliance, once described by late Mufti Mohd Syed as “a merger of north and south poles’’.

Although Drabu is a former banker, has no mass base in Kashmir and is a late entrant to PDP, BJP circles are depending on him to pull off a split in Mehbooba’s party. Their assessment is that many of Mehbooba’s MLAs are restless for power and no longer trust her leadership.

It is in this context that Drabu becomes relevant. He is known to enjoy a good rapport with Ram Madhav and has been the main bridge between the PDP and BJP from Mufti’s time as chief minister. The BJP believes that with its backing, Mehbooba can be isolated and Drabu can wean away her MLAs, particularly the older ones who never accepted her leadership.

The BJP is also under pressure from its own Jammu MLAs who are keen to get back into power. While they are relieved that Mehbooba is out, they do not want governor’s rule to continue for long. They have been mounting pressure for a BJP leader to head an alternative government but are even ready to settle for a pliant PDP man as leader as long as the perks of power are restored.

Mayawati reaches out

Mayawati is almost unrecognizable these days. Known as a prima donna who has always preferred to stay aloof, the BSP chief has turned over a new leaf to become accessible and available to party leaders who want to meet her.

Her most recent gesture that demonstrated the change in her behavior was her outreach to Muslims on Eid. Although she did not hold an Iftar party or an Eid Milan, on the day of the festival, she personally telephoned all prominent Muslims in UP, both among the clergy and in civil society, to convey her good wishes.

She must have made dozens of phone calls and was unusually informal and relaxed. Many of those she telephoned were taken aback and surprised to see a side of Mayawati they did not know existed. Her outreach has definitely thawed the reservations some of these leaders had about the BSP.

Interestingly, she has also started talking directly to her party people. In the past, she restricted her interactions to BSP coordinators. But these days, she is on the phone to former BSP MLAs and MPs as well.

This is definitely unusual because Mayawati rarely interacted with her elected members. She never trusted them because most of them came from other parties and were not core BSP members.

Those in touch with these former MLAs say that she now contacts them regularly for political feedback from their constituencies.

Pay scale or package?

The Modi government has come up with an unusual offer for future Members of the Competition Commission of India, the premier anti-monopoly watchdog body. It has asked applicants to choose between regular government pay scales for the position with the usual perks of a car, telephone, etc or a pay packet of Rs 4 lakhs without the benefits.

There are two vacancies in the Commission for which the government has advertised for applications from eligible persons. The posts usually go to senior civil servants who, if chosen, have to quit their jobs in exchange for a five-year tenure in the Commission.

The government’s offer of a higher pay package without perks is part of its attempts to corporatize the administration and bring in a whiff of private sector practices.

It would be interesting to see what the chosen Members opt for. Applications have been invited from within the bureaucracy which is used to the perks of office.

Vohra and Sharma

Two important personalities in J & K are unsure of their future. One is the governor N N Vohra, whose second term finished on June 28. The other is the centre’s interlocutor Dineshwar Sharma.

The union government has neither announced a replacement for Vohra, nor decided to extend his term as yet. Vohra remains in suspended animation, much like the J & K assembly which has not yet been dissolved amid speculation that the BJP is exploring the possibility of forming an alternative government with a breakaway section of the PDP.

Sharma’s position is even more uncertain. Should he continue with his outreach and dialogue efforts while the state is under governor’s rule? These efforts seem jarring and will probably prove unproductive as security forces conduct tougher anti-terror operations in the Valley.

The union home ministry has not clarified Sharma’s brief during the crackdown, which leave him pretty much unemployed at the moment.