BJP-PDP alliance ends in J&K: Mehbooba Mufti caught unawares as Centre seeks to tame militancy, restore order

One expected the Peoples Democratic Party -Bharatiya Janata Party coalition to give way by August, around the time the Amarnath Yatra ends (on 26 August). But the BJP has taken erstwhile chief minister Mehbooba Mufti by surprise, not giving her a chance to resign first, or recommend elections.

Both possibilities would have helped her save some face in the political arena. As things stand, the PDP will face the negative impact of having remained in coalition with the BJP, despite friction. The alliance has been very unpopular in the Valley: And, so far, in other parts of the state too.

 BJP-PDP alliance ends in J&K: Mehbooba Mufti caught unawares as Centre seeks to tame militancy, restore order

File image of outgoing Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister, Mehbooba Mufti. AFP

Now that the break has come much earlier than most observers expected, the threat to the Amarnath Yatra, which begins on 28 June, will increase. The Indian Army will be front and centre, with a likely free hand to take tough measures.

There will be a period of Governor’s Rule, perhaps an extended one. The Congress has stated firmly, through former state chief minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, that there is no question of joining hands with the PDP.

National Conference in focus

The only possibility left was that the National Conference joins hands with one of the two parties that have parted ways. Given ground-level political animosities, and the Centre’s likely refusal, the two regional parties are unlikely to get together.

Two National Conference spokespersons refused initially to take any stand at all. Omar Abdullah, the party’s vice-president, went to Raj Bhavan to meet Governor NN Vohra. Abdullah then stated that his party would neither seek or offer support.

Vohra is exactly one week short of completing his second term as governor: On 26 June. He has been remarkably popular in both the Valley and in Jammu, has worked very efficiently, and there have been indications from New Delhi that he would continue in office.

Now that a huge responsibility is likely to fall on the governor’s office, the Centre would be best off trusting it to someone with vast  experience. Omar Abdullah too stated that Vohra has run the state expertly.

One name over whom there has been speculation is that of Dineshwar Sharma, former Intelligence Bureau chief who was appointed in October as the Centre’s Representative for talks in Kashmir. Some presumed that his talks with a range of Kashmiris was a preparation for him to take over Raj Bhavan. Sharma has been in Kashmir over the past couple of days.

The Centre has also considered a retired Indian Army officer. Given the dark clouds gathered on the diplomatic and geopolitical fronts, this would not be a wise course of action.

Tough military challenge

The forces will have a tough task ahead. The number of militants has increased sharply in south Kashmir over the past few weeks. Meanwhile, large numbers of foreign militants, mainly from Pakistan, lurk in various parts of the Valley, especially north Kashmir.

BJP general secretary Ram Madhav, who announced the withdrawal of his party’s support to the PDP in New Delhi, pointed to the assassination of Rising Kashmir editor Shujaat Bukhari in the heart of the city as a security lapse.

This might indicate that there will now be a shake-up in the police force, despite the fact that Inspector-General Swayam Prakash Pani and Director-General SP Vaid have earned respect for the way they have handled their responsibilities.

The Indian Army will surely be given a free hand to put down militancy strongly. This will prove a tall order, though, since not only the numbers of militants, but their equipment, their motivation, their coordination, and their training have all become more fearsome.

Shelling on the Line of Control and reported preparations on the Pakistani side of it augur a bigger game, which is likely to come to the fore over the next few weeks.

Meanwhile, diplomatic moves by China, Pakistan and other countries will limit the options of domestic policymakers. On Monday, China proposed a trilateral summit of India, Pakistan and China’s leaders.

The Chinese ambassador mentioned that India-China relations could not stand another Doka La, an ominous reference to the possibility of military stand-offs over the state of Jammu and Kashmir.

India rejected the proposal, but the China-Pakistan axis is a reality which will show up in various ways on the military, geopolitical and diplomatic fronts.

In addition, a report on Kashmir by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights emerged just a few days ago as a huge challenge for India.

Updated Date: Jun 20, 2018 07:18:27 IST