Mehbooba Mufti’s Dilemma Over Forming Government With BJP in J&K
Mufti Mohammad Saeed had entered into a coalition with BJP despite stiff opposition from within the party.
Though the suspense surrounding government formation in Jammu and Kashmir continues, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has dropped ample hints that it will go ahead with its arrangement with the BJP. Following the demise of former J&K chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, the PDP-BJP coalition seemed shaky as chief minister-designate and PDP president Mehbooba Mufti seemed reluctant to take the oath. The situation spiralled into a constitutional crisis and the state was brought under Governor’s rule.
Reassurance Needed From BJP
Initial reports suggested that Mehbooba Mufti was grieving her father and was not in a state of mind to take over the reins. The grief was understandable – Mehbooba had not only lost her father but also her best friend and guide. However, soon some PDP insiders started dropping hints that there was more to Mehbooba’s reluctance than meets the eye. More reports started leaking from the PDP camp that Mehbooba wanted some reassurance from the BJP before taking over as chief minister.
One of her senior colleagues, Naeem Akhtar, indicated that the PDP was in no hurry to form a government, but wanted to first ensure that the common minimum programme (Agenda of Alliance) that the two parties signed last year, was implemented in ‘letter and spirit.’ Following Akhtar’s statement, Mehbooba Mufti called a meeting of senior party leaders where she was authorised to take the final call over government formation with the BJP.
Mehbooba’s Grudges Against BJP
Following the meeting, Akhtar again hinted that there was no rethink about the coalition and described the Agenda of Alliance as ‘a sacred document’ for the party. Notwithstanding what Akhtar had said before the meeting or after, insiders say that Mehbooba is facing a dilemma over government formation for several reasons.
1) Mehbooba is not happy with the 10-month performance of the coalition and holds a grudge against the BJP for making things difficult for her late father – from the beef row to attempts made by the BJP to undermine the special status of J&K.
2) Mehbooba reportedly harbours a personal grudge against Prime Minister Narendra Modi who didn’t visit Kashmir to attend Mufti’s funeral. It’s worth remembering that Modi and Mufti had brought this coalition into being.
3) Mehbooba is unhappy with New Delhi for delaying the much-awaited financial package to the state and the return of power projects, the two issues which formed the basis of the coalition. However, she finds herself in a catch-22 situation. Despite these grudges against BJP, Mufti can’t pull out of the coalition. Pulling out will mean negating her late father’s stance. It will almost be like a public admission that her father was wrong in tying up with BJP. And that she will never do.
Will Mehbooba Respect Her Father’s Decision?
It may be recalled hat Mufti Mohammad Saeed entered into a coalition with the BJP despite stiff opposition from within the party and other regional forces from the Kashmir Valley. If insiders are to be believed, even Mehbooba Mufti was opposed to joining hands with the BJP but was convinced by her father that the arrangement with the BJP was the only way to drag J&K out from economic and financial mess that Valley was in following 2014 massive floods. She is again faced with the same dilemma; several party colleagues are of the view that tying up with BJP has adversely impacted the party’s base in the Kashmir Valley. Many in PDP fear that the BJP will continue to trigger controversies and thus governance would be impacted.
Senior PDP leader, who didn’t want to be named
Mufti Sahib was a senior politician with tremendous experience. He could absorb lots of things and in his absence it will be difficult for the party leadership to keep BJP under check.
Despite the opposing voices, it looks certain that Mehbooba would continue with the alliance, even if only to respect her father’s decision. Though publicly she will not talk of any pre-conditions to form the government with BJP, she will try to make it clear to BJP’s central leadership that she is not her father. It’s safe to say that she will pull out of the coalition at the first hint of any fresh controversy that the BJP may trigger in the state.
(Basheer Manzar is an independent journalist from Kashmir. He is based out of Srinagar.)
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