PDP-BJP Agreements Won’t Do Much More Than Keep Coalition Alive
PDP-BJP alliance is headed for tough times as the volatile situation in the Valley builds pressure on the partners.
The tensions that had appeared last week in the PDP-BJP coalition in Jammu and Kashmir appear to have been overcome – for the moment.
The most important agreement apparently is to initiate talks with separatists. Former Finance Secretary Ratan Wattal could be the interlocutor on behalf of New Delhi. He was in touch with Mehbooba on behalf of the Centre during the months when she refused to take office following her father’s death at the beginning of 2016.
After a series of meetings with a range of political and security authorities in New Delhi, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti announced that initiatives would be taken to advance the Agenda of Alliance the two parties had hammered out before they assumed power.
Too Little, Too Late
Insiders, however, said actual movement was only to be expected after two or three months. That may turn out to be too late, for the situation will most likely worsen sharply after Eid, which is due whenever the new moon is sighted in the last week of June.
What the two parties are said to be planning is also likely to prove too little. Insiders say that the state government hopes that power projects in the state will be given over to the state to run.
This could have made a major difference to the mood on the ground a couple of years ago, but much water – and blood – has flowed down the Jhelum since then. In fact, the river itself could very well flood again by then. That would cause huge distress and much greater alienation than which already exists.
There is also apparently an agreement to release political prisoners. That amounts to an admission that the mass arrests of ‘stone-pelters’ was ill-advised. It did little good; anger has now spread from the bylanes of villages, where unrest was concentrated last year, to the campuses of colleges and high schools.
Over the past fortnight, college students have pelted stones. Even after most educational institutions remained shut through most of last week, there was a terrible confrontation between students and the police in the heart of Srinagar when colleges reopened on Monday.
Ironically, trouble erupted on Maulana Azad Road at 1 pm, immediately after Mehbooba’s meetings with the powers-that-be at the Centre. In a couple of hours, it had spread to the Lal Chowk city centre not far down the road. There was chaos amid a welter of stones and thick clouds of tear gas.
Two students were said to have been injured. There would be hell to pay if students were killed at such a central location. As it is, political activists and nationalists were terrified after militants killed the PDP’s district president in Pulwama – again, just a little after the chief minister’s meetings ended in New Delhi.
Reaching a Stand-Off
It is sad that, even after it came so late in the day, the talks between the PDP and the Central leaders is likely to fall far short of the requirement.
Early last year, Mehbooba had asked for much more confidence-building measures than were agreed at Monday’s meetings – when she had refused to take over power for three months after her father died.
She backed down then, apparently after the Centre made it clear that it would instal in power an alternative leader from her party.
No wonder, there has been a lack of trust on both sides from the start. Mistrust began even when her father, Mufti Sayeed, took over as chief minister. He and the leaders at the Centre evidently had a very different understanding of what had been agreed in their Agenda of Alliance.
That became clear on the very first day, when Sayeed sought to bring talks with Pakistan into play by thanking that country for “allowing the smooth conduct of elections”.
Almost immediately thereafter, the coalition came to the brink of a crisis over the release from prison of Masarat Alam, the coordinator of the 2010 agitations. Paperwork for his release had been cleared before Sayeed took office, but he was actually released a few days after the new government took office.
Unfortunately, relations between the two major coalition partners have been on a downhill slide for much of the time during the two years since then. There seems little chance that Monday’s meetings will lead to a turnaround.
(The writer is a Kashmir-based author and journalist. He can be reached at @david_devadas. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)
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