"This is quite a game, politics. There are no permanent enemies, and no permanent friends, only permanent interests."
— William Lacy Clay, former Democratic Congressman from Missouri, United States
Governor's Rule has returned to Jammu and Kashmir after the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) severed ties with Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state. Governor Narendra Nath Vohra has the tough task of administering the state, the fourth time he's doing so in the last 10 years.
BJP's withdrawal from the government comes at a time when the state is gearing up for the holy Amarnath shrine pilgrimage, which commences from 28 June. BJP's national general secretary Ram Madhav, in a carefully worded press conference in New Delhi on Tuesday, said, "It has become untenable for BJP to continue in the alliance government in Jammu and Kashmir."
Implicating chief minister Mehbooba Mufti's for her failure in handling the state, Madhav further added that the party entered in a coalition with PDP with the twin objective of restoring peace in the Valley and development of all three regions of the state.
This was coming from one of the chief architects of the alliance in Jammu and Kashmir — the other being Haseeb Drabu, who was ousted from the state government earlier this year for saying Kashmir was "not a political issue".
The BJP-PDP alliance was castigated by their political adversaries as well as the state's commentariat since the two joined hands in March 2015.
In the 2014 Assembly elections in the state, the Jammu region of the state voted for BJP (25 seats), while Kashmir voted for PDP (28 seats). But two ideologically contrasting parties coming together to form a government in the conflict-ridden state of Jammu and Kashmir was unprecedented. It was the shrewdness of PDP founder and former chief minister, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, who joined hands with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and termed the BJP-PDP alliance as the meeting of North Pole and South Pole.
Mufti Sayeed also asserted that it was a political alliance first, and then an alliance for governance.
Unfortunately, however, Mufti Sayeed could lead the coalition government for 10 months only. After his death in January 2016, the alliance got a new lease of life after three months, when Mehbooba Mufti became chief minister in April 2016. In the last three years, the state has witnessed several upheavals, and there hasn't been much visible progress either.
The main challenge the government faced was regarding security. Rising Islamism and increased terror activities in Kashmir had brought to the fore the complexities of the state. As soon as Mehbooba took over the reins of the state in April 2016, we witnessed the fracas at the National Institute of Technology in Srinagar where local students clashed with non-locals following a cricket match between India and Pakistan.
Then, in July 2016, Hizbul Mujahideen leader Burhan Wani was killed by Indian security forces which exhibited the Islamic radicalisation on the streets of Kashmir leading to deaths of 85 civilians. Kashmir has hardly seen any peace since then. The violence, whether stone pelting or terror attacks, had eventually transformed into an endless vicious cycle.
On the other hand, the Jammu region faced discrimination in terms of basic governance, employment opportunities, and development. The influx of illegal Bangladeshi and Rohingya and gradual demographic changes irked the people of Jammu the most. Jammu's anger was further aroused by the BJP's perceived "weakness" in the coalition and its volte-face on core issues such as Article 370, Article 35A, refugees from Pakistan, Kashmiri Pandits, etc. Jammu felt marginalised and expressed its disenchantment with the dispensation. The grisly rape and murder of a minor girl belonging to the Bakarwal community acted as the tipping point and made the environment even more convoluted.
In the meantime, the bloodshed on the international border and the line of control only increased the antipathy towards the government.
As always, Ladakh's voice was hardly heard and discrimination against the hilly region continued. Apart from the long-pending demand of granting a Union Territory status to Ladakh, the people have also sought the establishment of a central university and a medical college, the construction of an all-weather road through Parangla in Himachal Pradesh, and strengthening of the hill councils to carry out developmental work in the region. None of the demands have been met till date.
If the BJP is to be truthful about the promises it made, and be concerned about removing the regional imbalances in Jammu and Kashmir, it should have noticed the uneasiness regarding the coalition with the PDP and exited the government a long time ago. It should have noticed that the PDP was acting as an impediment to the smooth and unbiased functioning of the government.
But instead of caring about the happenings in the state, the party continued to hold on to power. The BJP was even celebrating the successful completion of its three years in government.
The sudden realisation by the party of the differences with PDP sounds farcical. Playing the national interest and sovereignty card is a purely political move keeping the 2019 Lok Sabha elections in mind. This is a well calculated move by the party which wants to regain its nationalist space in the country, since its image has been tarnished by ceding space to soft separatist overtures of PDP, the recent example being non-initiation of combat operations (NICO) against terrorists in Kashmir which didn't yield any results.
It would also not be a cake-walk for the BJP to salvage lost ground in its core-constituency of Jammu even after breaking up with PDP. The people would realise that BJP crying about lack of development in Jammu and Ladakh is pure hogwash. While the party was enjoying power for three years, it ignored the two regions.
Whatever BJP says about breaking up the coalition with PDP, it should be taken with a pinch of salt. The BJP has been involved in government operations in Jammu and Kashmir and must equally share the blame for what has been happening. Blaming Mehbooba Mufti and her party is an easy way out. But it has to be seen how the situation unfolds in Jammu and Kashmir — definitely not unexacting.
In the middle of all this, however, there is one thing the BJP surely can do: It's now free to join the chorus of opponents and term its marriage with the PDP as "unholy".
Varad Sharma is a writer and political commentator. He is the co-editor of book on Kashmir's ethnic minority community titled 'A Long Dream of Home: The Persecution, Exodus and Exile of Kashmiri Pandits', published by Bloomsbury India. He tweets @VaradSharma
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Updated Date: Jun 21, 2018 18:38:24 IST