Jammu: After three months of political deadlock, the PDP-BJP alliance is back in office, this time headed by Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti who took oath on Monday in a low-key ceremony held at Raj Bhawan in Jammu. Unlike the festive atmosphere of March 2015, no one on the streets of Jammu seemed bothered about the political developments.
Jammu, the winter capital of the state that gave a majority mandate to the BJP in the region, is looking at Mehbooba, the first woman chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, with skepticism and bewilderment. There is also a sense of anguish among ordinary people who accuse the BJP of “compromising” its core ideology and poll planks on which the party came to power in Jammu.
“It looked like a good decision when the BJP made an alliance with PDP and formed the government last year but, like the Congress, they too forgot the promises and the very basis of their ideology. They failed for nine months to bring even a small change in Jammu, so what can you expect from them now?” Anil Kumar, a grocery shop owner, on the Residency Road, a lively marketplace in the heart of Jammu city, told Firstpost.
“They (BJP) wanted a Hindu chief minister for the state, abrogation of Article 370 and equal share of development in Jammu. When they came into government, they forget those slogans. They failed to even deliver on the basics,” he adds.
The BJP won 25 out of 37 seats in the Hindu-dominated Jammu province — a historic feat that enabled the party to stitch up the alliance with the PDP in 2015. The ‘Narendra Modi wave’ touched the hearts of people even more than the Amarnath land row of 2008 during which Jammu became polarised along communal lines and the BJP climbed to its highest ever tally of 11 seats in a House of 87.
But the alliance with the Kashmir-centric Peoples Democratic Party didn’t go down well among the people here, who still accuse the party of compromising on the very principle and ideology that it stands for. Amit Khanna — a hotelier based in Jammu city, sitting behind a large wooden table in his office, speaks about the ideological divide between the two parties that will spill into the open in coming days.
“She (Mehbooba) has always been looked at with suspicion. She is not a known leader in Jammu and she won’t have much tolerance, like her father did, for the tantrums thrown by BJP leaders. If they talk about cow, state flag and Constitution, I am sure she will strike back, which would make the coalition difficult,” Khanna told Firstpost.
“Her father was mature politician, he never spoke against BJP leaders who made a noise about issues saying that they won’t be solved,” he adds.
“She is not like her father, who was a nationalist and, despite the odds, wanted to remove the gaps between the three regions of state. She is a Kashmiri nationalist who is more concerned with Kashmir than the other two regions,” Neeraj Sharam, a resident of Gandhi Nagar and a post-graduate in Sociology from Jammu University, told Firstpost.
When Mufti Mohammad Sayeed stitched together the alliance with the BJP, he had described it as a unification of the “North Pole and South Pole”, but this ‘miracle of democracy’ soon turned into a wrestling match between two parties. From day one, leaders from both the parties hardly agreed on issues.
But hours after she took the oath in her first cabinet meeting, Mehbooba sounded assertive and told her ministers that the two vacant positions in her cabinet could become five if the ministers did not perform. “Even if I get a minor complaint against any of you, I will take no time in acting against you,” an official who attended the meeting, said, quoting the chief minister.
Asserting that her government’s focus would be on development, Mehbooba asked her ministers to be prompt in the disposal of files. She, in fact, hinted that the government will be fixing a timeline for disbursal of files. In her first interaction with the commissioners and the secretaries, the chief minister said the government will rely mainly on information technology to prevent corruption and ensure transparency.
She said she will be introducing a file-tracking system so that no minister sits on a file for more than three days, one officer said. She also put on record the good work that the governor’s administration did and insisted the projects awaiting completion should be completed. “If the two parties are able to bring accountability and transparency into the system of governance, that would change the perception of people towards this government,” Ankush Raina, a shopkeeper, said.
“But it would be very difficult for the BJP after five years to retain power until and unless they do something special for the region,” he added.