Getting Coalition Right

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There were several compulsions for PDP to join hands with BJP to form the government. And despite strong reservations among the majority of the population in the state about such a coalition, some of these compulsions stood to reason. One was BJP sweeping the Jammu province with 25 seats and therefore leaving the party out would have denied the region its legitimate right to be a part of the government. Doing so was rightly thought to be a trigger for a destabilizing regional discord with a resurgent BJP backed by its own majority government at the centre ensuring that an alternative power arrangement in the state didn’t function to its optimal capacity.

Second important rationale for a PDP-BJP coalition was that such an arrangement would persuade BJP to put on hold its agenda to dilute Article 370 of the state and also hold back on the settlement of the West Pakistan Refugees and the separate enclaves for Kashmiri Pandits. Though an alternative coalition would have also safeguarded the state’s special status, it would have had to grapple with a jilted BJP pressing its agenda with more vehemence and confronting the state government with recurrent crises.

Third reason and which is considered the coalition’s single most redeeming feature was the promise it held of the economic recovery of the state and the rehabilitation of the flood victims.  But six months into its term while the two parties have achieved an uneasy political and ideological trade-off, almost rendering the government a dull bureaucratic enterprise, the governance hasn’t made any headway, with flood rehabilitation looking more distant than ever. That too a year after the deluge sank Srinagar and large swathes of South and North Kashmir, leaving a massive humanitarian fallout in its wake. Thousands of people have lost their houses, livelihoods and businesses. But there is little indication that the government has become a little more responsive, crippled as it by the lack of funds from the BJP government at the centre. Prime Minister Narendra Modi offered Rs 1.25 lakh crore to Bihar – forced by the electoral calculations ahead of the Assembly polls in the state – but paid a little over Rs 1600 crore to J&K ravaged by an unprecedented natural disaster.

Forged out of compulsion and some pragmatic considerations, has PDP-BJP fulfilled any of its promise? Not yet. It was supposed to bring funds and rehabilitation for the state. It hasn’t so far. It was supposed to maintain a status quo on Article 370 but an RSS-linked Think Tank Kashmir Study Centre has sought to legally undermine it by filing a petition against Article 35A in the Supreme Court. It was supposed to heal the divide between Kashmir and Jammu. Instead it has only created an uneasy truce. Both regions have now political and administratively diverged from each other if not divided.

As our lead story on Tuesday underlines, PDP and BJP have effectively split the state between them -¬ with Valley going to PDP and Jammu to BJP. BJP ministers spend most of their time in Jammu. Same can hardly be said about the PDP ministers. So, instead of one, the J&K seems to have got two governments, run by the two parties, each pandering to its region and asserting its administrative and politico-ideological supremacy there. In this evolving arrangement, PDP is the loser as centre has denied the state funds to rehabilitate the flood victims. The result is a dead-end which is only becoming deeper by the day.  Need is for both the parties to reverse it. Not doing so will only further cripple the functioning of the coalition.

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