BJP-PDP alliance was a far cry from Mufti Sayeed's vision of 'building bridges', restoring communal harmony in J&K

The raison d'etre for the BJP and PDP to stitch an alliance in Jammu and Kashmir, after the state Assembly elections threw up a fractured mandate in 2015, was to end communal polarisation in the state, apart from many other economic and political issues laid out in the 'Agenda of the Alliance', co-authored by BJP general secretary Ram Madhav.

The alliance projected itself as a means of building bridges between the Hindu majority districts of Jammu, and the Muslim majority Kashmir. But, after three years, the two regions stand communally polarised like never before, and it is going to be worse in coming days, as BJP prepares for the 2019 General elections.

 BJP-PDP alliance was a far cry from Mufti Sayeeds vision of building bridges, restoring communal harmony in J&K

File image of late Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. PTI

"Mehbooba Muftiji and PDP leaders always talked about building bridges between the three regions of Jammu and Kashmir. But, BJP sees it as a laboratory to do experiments. Ultimately, pitting one region against another will create hate and make the distance between at least two regions of Kashmir and Jammu unbridgeable," Rafi Mir, Peoples Democratic Party's spokesperson, said.

PDP founder late Mufti Muhammad Sayeed, former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti's father, argued vociferously that if the state has to be saved from slipping into a communal cauldron, then the mandate of Jammu has to be respected where the BJP had won 25 seats.

"People have a strong opinion against me because I brought Congress to the state," Mufti said in a breakfast meeting in March 2015 with at least eight journalists, which was attended by this correspondent as well. "But in a democracy, if the BJP has been chosen electorally by the people of Jammu, denying them an opportunity to govern would be undemocratic. And I stand for democracy. Their coming together with us will build bridges between the two sides."

But the experiment failed badly and exactly the opposite has happened.

So much so, that when BJP president Amit Shah arrived in Jammu on Saturday, he raised the old bogey of discrimination to target the 'PDP sarkar' for behaving like a stepmother when it came to the developmental needs of Jammu and Ladakh. But the question is: if it was just a 'PDP sarkar' and not the PDP-BJP government, what were the ministers and a deputy chief minister from BJP doing in Mehbooba's cabinet? Did they ultimately fail too?

Mehbooba Mufti, responding to Shah's remarks, said:

She said in another tweet:

The perceived discrimination of Jammu is an old song repeated often in elections to raise passions against Kashmir and Kashmiri politicians. It is also used to fan communal passions. There is no comparison in the infrastructural and economic development that has happened in Jammu while the Valley was consumed by violence, since last three decades. The much-talked about 'Agenda of the Alliance' was not mentioned by Shah in Jammu.

"It was the Kashmir-centric approach of the PDP government that forced BJP's central leadership to leave the alliance. Their propriety was to save anti-nationals and stone palters instead of development of all three regions," BJP state president Ravinder Raina said.

And ironically, it is not BJP but the Congress which has done most of the development in Jammu region. But the Congress also sowed the seeds of communal hatred in the state for decades, pitting Jammu against Kashmir and its dividends are now being reaped by BJP.

Rekha Chowdhary, a former professor of political science at Jammu University and presently a fellow at the Indian Institute of Advanced Studies in Shimla, said that apart from the ideological issues with PDP, the BJP has been under the pressure of expectations. Now, she said, there is a feeling within the Jammu region that the BJP has failed to fulfil its 'pro-Jammu' promises. She said, "there is also a strong sense that the BJP has acted as the junior partner within the government and has failed to assert itself vis-a-vis the PDP."

"There was a very strong feeling that the party would be very aggressive in its 'pro-Jammu' stance while in power, especially because it was also holding power at the Centre, but that seems not to have happened,"  she said. Chowdhary added that the polarisation has certainly increased in the state because the last government was not seen as a cohesive government and both parties had their own constituencies to serve.

"With constant pressure from their respective constituencies to prove that they have not compromised on their core ideological positions, their major concern has been the 'next election'. And rather than focusing on cohesive governance, the two parties were often seen to be working in different and even opposite directions," she said.

Congress leader Saifuddin Soz, who was recently in the thick of controversy over his book 'Kashmir: Glimpses of History and the Story of Struggle' that has already generated interest in Kashmir, said the Jammu region has been the battleground for sectarian forces for decades after nearly two lakh Muslims in Jammu region were massacred by Hindus during the Partition.

"It is again showing signs of sectarianism," Soz said. "I have a strong feeling that the BJP wants to communalise the situation to gain electorally in the coming elections. But at the end, they will be defeating their own failed agenda of building bridges between the regions of the state."

As the General elections draw closer, it will not be surprising if a riot breaks out or communal killings or attacks take place in Jammu and Kashmir – as that will set the tone for the electoral battle. Experts fear Jammu is likely to become a laboratory of communal polarisation, something which is likely to give a boost to the Hindu nationalist party throughout India.

The malice and hatred are so deep that BJP MLA Lal Singh singled out reporters from Kashmir, telling them to draw a line or meet the fate of editor Shujat Bukhari, who was murdered earlier this month by unknown gunmen.

Sayeed's experiment has failed but the BJP is likely to benefit from it. On the other hand, the credibility of his party, the PDP, has gone down the drain. This is not a situation he had envisioned when he decided to ally with the saffron party. Sadly, there seems to be no easy way out for Mehbooba either.

Updated Date: Jun 25, 2018 14:35:24 IST