The much strained partnership between the Peoples Democratic Party and the Bharatiya Janata Party has officially come to an end, with BJP leader Ram Madhav making the announcement in New Delhi and outgoing chief minister Mehbooba Mufti tendering her resignation to Governor NN Vohra in Srinagar.
The breaking point, apparently, was the non-initiation of combat operations (NICO) in the Valley, with the PDP expressing strong disapproval of the Centre's decision to not extend it and the BJP, particularly its Jammu unit, opposing it from the outset.
Oft described as the coming together of the North Pole and South Pole, it is actually to the credit of the leaders in Srinagar, Jammu and New Delhi that this coalition lasted for more than two years despite huge differences and a number of developments that breached the trust between the allies.
What’s next for Jammu and Kashmir?
Governor's Rule, for some time. This will give enough space and flexibility for security forces to resume the counter-insurgency operations in the Valley. But it will be a mistake to presume that Vohra will have the last word in state administration. That should go to Dineshwar Sharma — and rightfully so — the soft-spoken interlocutor who was appointed by the Centre, who carries a mandate from New Delhi and has earned enough credibility among Kashmiris. Vohra has held the fort well but is too status quoist to try anything new.
But while Governor’s Rule may sound like a good arrangement, it is, for all purposes stopgap. The Centre must make an effort to hold fresh Assembly elections as quickly as possible post-Amarnath Yatra, particularly as both bypolls for Anantnag Lok Sabha seat and panchayat elections have been pending for years.
Admittedly, this is a high-risk approach: Lower voter turnout may prove counterproductive, but postponing the elections also has its risks as the lack of any political activity may bring more people on streets in anti-India protests.
New Delhi has been able to regain some goodwill through the NICO and amnesty to the stone-pelters, and the killing of prominent journalist Shujaat Bukhari on the eve of Eid may have antagonised a section of locals against the militants: Even if temporarily.
While this is no cause for hubris, the Centre needs to act on this moral high ground to regain the political initiative. Sharma is the right person to pursue this strategy and perhaps even change the governor by bringing in an eminent, well-meaning and neutral person and disregarding the Modi government's template of appointing a veteran RSS-BJP leader.
With the recent UNHRC report on human rights violations in Kashmir, the situation is being keenly watched by the international community and the aim should be to seize the initiative. Mufti has rightfully observed that the state should not be treated as 'enemy territory'. And even more so, this is a good opportunity to pursue development projects for other often neglected parts of the state: Jammu and Ladakh, as rightly observed by the BJP leader Ram Madhav.
The separatists, meanwhile, may have held together their tentative unity through the Joint Resistant Leadership, but it’s a forgone conclusion that they are a spent force, with no wisdom or credible programme of action for Kashmir’s future: Political or otherwise.
So, this presents a good opportunity for Sharma to engage with students and religious leaders — and not just from the Valley — and to understand their aspirations and concerns. In short, the end of the PDP-BJP alliance is not necessarily the end of the road for Kashmir as many analysts would have us believe. Every crisis presents us with opportunity and this crisis should be put to good use for Kashmir and India.
Updated Date: Jun 19, 2018 21:01 PM