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BJP's pre-election wish haunts party as Mehbooba Mufti delays formation of 'beti ki sarkar' in Kashmir

Every story has a moral. But the one currently unfolding in Kashmir has two, both are for the BJP.

One, be careful of what you wish for. It may come true just when you don't want it to. Two, be careful what you promise. Someday a casual jumla can return to haunt you.

In the run-up to the Assembly elections, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP continuously argued against dynastic politics, exhorting people to not elect Baap-bete ki sarkar and Baap-beti ki sarkar by rotation.

Unfortunately, the BJP's wish might come true just when it doesn't want it to.

On Sunday, a day after the Chillai Kalan (period of harsh cold) ended in the Valley, People's Democratic Party chief Mehbooba Mufti showed no signs of warming up to the BJP or forming the government. The uncertainty has forced governor NN Vohra to ask the two partners to clarify their stand by tomorrow.

PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti. AFP

PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti. AFP

At a meeting of the PDP, Mufti indicated that she was in hurry to renew her alliance with the BJP in the state. According to reports, she told her party that the PDP will not form the government until the BJP gives concrete assurances that the vision of late chief minister Mufti Muhammad Sayeed about equitable development and peace in the state would be fulfilled. The state is under Governor's rule since 8 January, a day after Sayeed passed away.

Unless Mufti changes her mind, or the BJP assuages her, there is very little possibility that Kashmir will see the daughter's sarkar.

The primary reason behind the PDP's reluctance to form the government is its declining popularity in the Valley, primarily because of its alliance with the BJP. Mufti is concerned that if she continues the alliance, it will harm the PDP's long-term prospects in the state. So, she is taking time to weigh the short-term gains from the alliance against the potential damage.

Mufti's strategy is simple: She wants to reposition herself as the Valley's hero by turning the BJP into the villain. If the BJP accepts her wishlist, she would portray herself as the crusader who fought for Kashmir's interest. In case the BJP doesn't agree, Mufti will cast herself in the role of the betrayed beti and recommend fresh elections hoping that her party puts up a decent performance because of sympathy for her departed father.

The BJP has given legitimacy to Mufti's political expediency by ignoring most of the promises it had made before finalising the alliance. (You can read their common minimum programme here).

Consider, for instance, the decision to develop Srinagar and Jammu as smart cities. "The government of India must include Srinagar and Jammu in the Smart Cities announced in this year’s budget,'' according to the agenda for governance. Both the cities were missing from the list announced past week by the Centre.

Other major points of contention include the differences on review of Afspa and return of two Hydel power projects to the state. The two issues were part of the agenda for governance of the coalition. The PDP is worried that there is a lot of resentment in the Valley because the Narendra Modi government took almost a year to announce a relief package to victims of the 2014 floods. The PDP fears that its graph will keep falling in the Valley till it stays in this alliance.

The BJP has, so far, shown its eagerness to save the alliance. The BJP has the most to lose if the government falls and it is keen to avoid an election for at least two years. In the 2014 elections, the BJP had failed to open its account in the Valley--only one candidate managed to save his deposit--and swept the Jammu region. Nothing has changed to suggest the party will do better in a fresh election. In Jammu, the party fears voters may go back to the Congress or the National Conference to keep the PDP out. So, nobody in the BJP is looking forward to a snap poll.

Interestingly, the Congress and NC also want Mufti to form the government. Both the parties feel that if Mufti decides to do business with the BJP, she will find it difficult to regain the trust of voters in the Valley for a very long time. An early election may, however, help her do well because of the decision to walk out of the unpopular alliance and sympathy for her father.

Notice the irony: While almost every party wants Beti ki sarkar in Kashmir, the daughter herself is not willing to oblige. A year ago, all those who would have been happy with this development are silently kicking themselves for not being careful with what they wish.

Updated Date: Feb 02, 2016 07:39 AM

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