Alliance with PDP in J&K is damaging party nationally; pulling out would also be a setback
The decision of the BJP to ally with the ‘soft separatist' PDP led by Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and after his demise by his daughter Mehbooba Mufti in the aftermath of the 2014 Assembly poll when the former swept predominantly Hindu Jammu and the latter was by far the leading party in the almost exclusively Muslim Kashmir Valley given the ethnic cleansing of the Kashmiri Pandit community over 25 years ago, is undergoing its severest test today. Jammu & Kashmir Chief Minister has ratcheted up the articulation of her party's agenda, which of course she has every right to do without being called anti-national despite our strong disagreement with her. In calling for talks with Pakistan as the only way to ensure peace in the State even as fidayeen attacks from Islamabad's proxies and Islamist tanzeems on Indian security force camps were ongoing, which itself came just days after her police administration registered an unprecedented FIR against an individual Indian Army officer whose unit appears prima facie to have fired in self-defence as one of its JCOs was set upon by a violent, armed-with-stones mob out for blood in Shopian, Mehbooba Mufti has marked out her ideological territory and is playing rather single-mindedly to her electoral constituency.
The question then becomes: Where does that leave her ally and coalition partner in the State Government, the BJP? Critics of the party have made the usual allegations about the fishes and loaves of office being the reason the BJP is still supporting the PDP but that is in the main, though there surely would be some at the individual level who would love to continue enjoying the perks of office, a load of rubbish. Anecdotal evidence from across the country suggests the BJP's electoral prospects are being damaged, rather than enhanced, by the tie-up with the PDP especially in recent months with the spike in terror attacks in Jammu and Kashmir and the optics that have come to be identified with the PDP-BJP Government given Mehbooba Mufti's utterances. It is a fact that the State Government is being seen as ineffective. Added to the anti-incumbency expected in BJP strongholds across north and west India where the party won the maximum number of seats in the 2014 General Election, there are some who worry about voters staying home — or worse — in the coming Lok Sabha poll because of the diminished traction the party's touted nation-first, muscular approach to the Kashmir issue would have considering the goings-on in the State.
Posited against this scenario, however is the politically brave if possibly electorally suicidal decision to continue with the PDP alliance which was entered into with a degree of thought. It was premised, very clearly, on an assessment of pulling the Valley back from the brink by getting into the system and attempting to mainstream Kashmir even if the process was tortuous. For, the Valley had indeed become a virtual no-go area for the Indian State apparatus, its institutions and its personnel. That the BJP had the Hindu vote of the State sown up also gave it the heft required to pull a Nixon, as it were — if anybody could manage a successful outreach to the Valley it was they. But even if the dictum that the mainstreaming project is a process and not an event is kept in mind, the results can fairly be said to have been mixed.
The death of a Sufi-inspired Islam or the cultural notion of Kashmiriyat is an accomplished fact. And attempting to mainstream the detritus of a Wahabi Islamist promoted radicalization which co-exists with the more modern sense of victimhood among even the so-called ‘secular minded' may end up being subject to the law of diminishing returns unless non-state violence is completely and comprehensively taken out of the mix, the demographic composition of the Valley is restored and it is ensured that national institutions hold sway across Jammu & Kashmir too.
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