Mehbooba Mufti's inability to get BJP on board with 'unilateral ceasefire' plan speaks volumes of her lack of power

In a rare display of unity, Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti got the National Conference, Congress and even MLA Engineer Rashid to agree that the message from the all-party meeting, held in Srinagar on Wednesday, was unequivocal call for a ceasefire with militants. But the PDP's alliance partner, BJP, seems reluctant to agree on anything Mehbooba's party sees fit for the Valley.

Whenever Mehbooba speaks, whether on the issue of economy or politics, she is countered either by the state leaders from Jammu or the BJP's Jitender Singh — a small time party worker from Jammu who now works in the Prime Minister's Officer. Every statement or call for action by her on the issues confronting the state are countered forcefully by her own alliance partner and rejected disdainfully. The two parties agree on nothing, but despite that, they still cling on to power in Jammu and Kashmir.

Mehbooba's father, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, faced public humiliation at the hands of the prime minister in Srinagar. And since coming to power, Mehbooba has wielded very little actual power.

File image of J&K chief minister Mehbooba Mufti. PTI

File image of Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti. PTI

On Thursday, in the state Assembly, the chief minister reached out to the Opposition, terming its role as critical in strengthening democracy. She said the Opposition should act as a buffer between government and people by "channelising dissent" towards right paths. She added that the all-party meeting was a way to appeal to the Opposition to help the government by reaching out to people in its own way and channelise their grievances to the government.

But the reality today in Kashmir is that the National Conference — the Grand Old Party of Jammu and Kashmir — had miserably failed to play the role of the Opposition. Its leaders — barring a spectacular intervention by its working president Omar Abdullah and Jitendra's brother and senior NC man Devinder Singh Rana on some occasions during the last Budget Session of state Assembly — have largely failed to play the role of an Opposition.

It could well be that the National Conference is silent because it wants the PDP ship to sink so deep that it will take decades to retrieve the debris, never mind rebuilding the ship. PDP MLAs can't go home in South Kashmir — this is the state of the elected legislators. The party workers peep through windows of their houses at the slightest suspicion, fearing militants may have arrived to kill them. Some pro-India political workers think a little aazadi will come once Mehbooba steps down.

That is perhaps why there is silence in the National Conference camp. Since the PDP has the BJP in the house, it doesn’t need an Opposition. The powers of assertion have been surrendered. A chief minister whose orders are not even adhered to by babus in the civil secretariat has to be the best example of incompetence.On Wednesday, after the all-party meeting that lasted four hours to discuss the present situation in the Kashmir Valley, Mehbooba said she had appealed to all shades of opinion in joining in the mission to get the state out of violence and bloodshed.

"Everyone agreed that we should appeal to the Centre to consider a ceasefire like the unilateral ceasefire in (former prime minister Atal Bihari) Vajpayee's time during Ramzan and the Amarnath yatra," she said, adding that a ceasefire would provide relief to people and help create a better atmosphere in the state. But no sooner had she said this, BJP workers in Jammu rebutted her claim and categorically rejected her assertions, saying they have not accepted any such proposal.

"The unilateral ceasefire is not going to happen."

"We don’t believe in the unilateral ceasefire as it is not in the national interest. We think at present no relaxation should be given. Anyone who joins the militancy is killed in three days. We are on a strong wicket now. The unilateral ceasefire is not a good thing," BJP leader and spokesperson Sunil Sethi said on Thursday in Jammu.

The public display of affection, or lack of it, for Mehbooba by the BJP, is yet another indicator that all is not well in the alliance. Former chief minister Omar Abdullah is perhaps right when he said that if Mehbooba was not building consensus around such an initiative with her own partner, why did she want to take the Opposition on board.

Only Mehbooba, who seems to have put blinkers on her eyes to evade the sight of the slow slide of Kashmir into chaos, knows the answer to that question. Her silence on the BJP's rebellion speaks volumes.

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Updated Date: May 11, 2018 11:14 AM

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