The only legitimate question that can be asked of a moribund alliance lying in a coma at the intensive care unit is this: What motivated the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to pull the life support plug now? There are five reasons why the BJP was finally compelled to dismantle the untenable alliance.
1. Differences over extension of non-initiation of combat operations
The BJP, under pressure from Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), had half-heartedly agreed to it as part of coalition compulsion but it eventually came to a conclusion it may have to pay a steep political price for extending it and the cost might have a spillover effect nationally in an election season.
The party was also mindful that as a tactical gesture, it may have had limited success for PDP but it sullied BJP's image of a nationalist party that brooks no compromise with separatist elements. An extension would have dealt a further blow to BJP's image and voter base.
Conversely, the PDP was keen to ensure an extension because the Indian Army's search and cordon operation was squeezing further its already perilous political space. A strong local component in separatist violence meant that many neutralised terrorists were locals and with each killing of a terrorist or their civilian aides, the PDP government was experiencing further and further erosion of its voter base.
2. Dramatic escalation of conflict in self-interests
The self-interests of two "allies" were juxtaposed in such a way that both parties were pulling in opposite directions. While BJP's state leaders and workers were in favour of a strong response against terrorists and backed Indian Army's 'flush-out' operations, Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti was finding it increasingly difficult to cope with the resentment and adopt a counter-narrative.
Under the circumstances, Mufti did what she had to. The decision to postpone the search and cordon operations was taken at her behest. It was aimed at generating a political breather for BJP and creating an atmosphere where talks with separatists might be carried out. The BJP was not at all averse to the idea and dropped large hints that it is ready to talk to anyone, including the Hurriyat as a first step towards initiating a peace process.
3. The murders of Bukhari and Aurangzeb
This is where Mufti's carefully laid plan was sabotaged by the terrorists. By killing a high-profile target such as Sujaat Bukhari and Rashtriya Rifles jawan Aurangzeb, the terrorists wanted to disrupt the momentum generated by the non-initiation of combat operations (NICO).
The cynical plan of the disruptors was incumbent on the calculation that the murder of a noted journalist — an independent voice of peace in the Valley — will transcend geographical space, gain national and international attention and cause widespread condemnation. Amid the monotony of everyday violence, the terrorists needed to raise the bar to create talking points.
Equally, the kidnap and murder of a jawan was planned to sow dissent within the armed forces (that never supported the plan) and show BJP in poor light among its base. These pincer movements, the attackers hoped, would put enormous pressure on Centre and compel it to cancel any idea of extension leading to a strain in the alliance. Once the brutal murders took place, the wheels of the alliance came off.
4. Amarnath Yatra
If refusal to extend NICO was the immediate trigger, Amarnath Yatra was the main reason that caused the split. It would have been an enormous risk for the BJP to extend it and hope that terrorists won't conduct an operation similar to the one carried out on 10 July, 2017. It not only hampers search and cordon operations, it also places restrictions on forces' ability to gather intelligence on movement of terrorists. Obviously, it had to go. But that is only one part of the problem.
Even if the forces resume their hot pursuit of terrorists to dominate and sanitise the route, a civil administration that may resent the preemptive steps taken by forces presents yet another, and possibly bigger risk. It was inevitable therefore that the alliance would collapse and Governor's Rule will be imposed. The immediate fallout of the breaking of ruling coalition will be on the security situation in the Valley. It is likely that security forces will now launch renewed search and cordon operations without being subjected to the ambiguities of political will.
5. An attempt to cut losses ahead of 2019
Breaking the alliance was the only legitimate move in a toxic climate where radicalism is riding pillion on separatism in the Valley. The BJP could sense that the only way for Valley-based parties like PDP — which unlike the saffron unit has no national base — to survive is by adopting a shade of separatism that is just a bit softer than the secessionist narrative in the troubled state. BJP's move can therefore be termed as an attempt to cut its losses and consolidate its power in the Hindu-dominated Jammu region.
Updated Date: Jun 24, 2018 15:28 PM