Jammu and Kashmir political unrest: PDP-NC-Congress plan to keep BJP out has worked for now, but democracy takes a beating
As the NC, PDP and Congress got together and staked claim to form government in Jammu and Kashmir, the game seems to be over for the BJP, which had earlier tried to poach MLAs from other parties to form the government.
In 2015, when Professor Abdul Ghani Bhat, a top Hurriyat leader, was asked why he met former Mufti Mohammad Sayeed (soon after the Peoples Democratic Party and the BJP had cobbled up the alliance in Jammu and Kashmir in 2015), he responded in his typical philosophical style: “Snakes can marry rats and bulls can chase lizards. What happens tomorrow, who can say!"
The political developments in the state on Wednesday aptly fit the metaphor deployed by Bhat to describe his meeting with Mufti. Two main regional parties — National Conference and PDP — have joined hands with the Congress and staked claim to form the government in Jammu and Kashmir. On the other hand, Sajjad Lone, the former-separatist-turned-BJP-ally, too claimed support of the BJP and “18” legislators in his letter (which was shared on WhatsApp) to the governor staking claim to form the government.
From Srinagar to New Delhi to Nagpur, the fast-paced political events kept everyone on their toes till Malik stepped in and ordered dissolution of the Assembly. While the move may have dashed hopes of an elected government assuming office in this border state, it has also undone the plans of the BJP to install its government in the Muslim majority state.
In all this, it is the regional parties, National Conference and Peoples Democratic Party, who have emerged victorious and not the BJP. Both the regional forces were racing against time to prevent desertions in their ranks with Lone aggressively trying to engineer defections in order to form the ‘third front’.
While the National Conference has been demanding the dissolution for the past five months, the PDP had joined the bandwagon recently. When they failed to get the governor to do it, the idea of a ‘grand alliance’ gained momentum which ultimately caught the Centre on the back-foot. For now, it seemed to have finally delivered for the PDP and the NC what was seeming rather impossible.
As the NC, PDP and Congress got together and staked claim to form the government, the game seems to be over for the BJP, which had earlier tried to poach MLAs from other parties to form the government. "It shows that the Governor sahib was not interested in democracy, but in a government formation, which will give BJP an upper hand. This is morally, constitutionally and ethically wrong for a Governor,” Nasir Aslam Sogami, a top National Conference leader said.
"Keeping the Assembly in suspended animation led to brazen yet unsuccessful attempts of horse trading, splitting of regional parties and engineering defections that in the past have eroded faith of Jammu and Kashmir's people in the Indian democracy & its institutions,” a journalist tweeted.
Tuesday was a politically volatile day for Kashmir in recent years. It started with Altaf Bukhari, a top PDP leader, declaring that three parties — NC, PDP and Congress, were coming together to form the government, in order to stop BJP from fiddling with Article 370 and special status of Jammu and Kashmir.
“It is the need of the hour,” Bukhari said in Srinagar, “and I am sure three secular parties getting together would send a strong message to New Delhi that we are not ready to compromise on our identity.”
Perhaps the leaders of the regional parties had an inkling that the BJP was not going to allow that to happen. “New Delhi has a tradition of murdering democracy and democratic institutions in Jammu and Kashmir. They won’t allow this to happen, whatever the cost. The tricks they have been trying to play the form the government was an indication of that,” PDP leader and MLC, Mohammad Khursheed Alam, said.
By evening the former chief minister, Mehbooba Mufti, tried sending a letter of letter to stake claim for forming the government but the fax at Raj Bhawan was not working, she tweeted. Bizzarely, Lone sent his official communique, regarding staking claim, on WhatsApp to the personal assistant of the Governor!
“#J&KaassemblyDissolved. We thought Sri Lankan President Sirisena was undemocratic. Here we have repeat of old mistakes & subterfuge to overturn democratic process in J&K. How can you dissolve without floor test?” former diplomat and strategic affairs expert, KC Singh tweeted.
At the heart of the ongoing developments, Lone is the loneliest and saddest man. He has lost the chance to become Jammu and Kashmir chief minister, a chance the BJP and its ally may not get in near future. The BJP, particularly, is in trouble. Its electoral bastion, Jammu, has witnessed some recent political upheavals, which could impact its future in the winter capital from where it got 25 seats in last elections.
One of its strongest candidates, the controversial Lal Singh, has opened a new front and is using the ‘lack of development’ to rally people on the ground. In the arid Ladakh region, the BJP’s MP has quit the party. There are already talks that he may join another party in coming days. After facing rout in Ladakh council polls, the BJP’s downfall seems a foregone conclusion.
The Peoples Conference, on the other hand, was hoping to poach MLAs from other parties and put a team in place, which would be able to form the government with the help of the BJP. Sajad was planning to organize a ‘northern block’ in Kashmir’s politics and create an alternative to NC and PDP in Kashmir. From aiming at becoming the chief minister, Sajad has turned out as the biggest loser in this ‘Game of Thrones’ playing out in J&K.
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Wednesday's questioning comes on the heels of the former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister being quizzed by the Central agency for over six hours on Monday