BJP-PDP Alliance:Where Mufti Muhammad Sayyed may have erred?

Circa 1984.  Farooq Abdullah- the son of Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah-, then the  young and swash buckling Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir- was in a for a surprise and even shock.His brother in law, Ghulam Mohammad Shah- very much part and parcel of the National Conference-the popular party which Farooq Abdullah headed- rebelled against Farooq.Ghulam Mohammad Shah- popularly known as “Gul Shah”- defected along with 12 MLA’s of the party and then became Chief Minister of a Congress- National Conference (rebel) combine. Apparently,Gul Shah, in hind sight and in retrospect, had been the figure head of a “coup” engineered in Delhi. The Centre(Delhi) had once again interfered and intervened blatantly in the politics of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. This time, apparently, it was Farooq Abdullah’s “truculent adventurism” that had been the catalyst for the “coup”. Ironically,  Gul Shah who came to be known derogatorily as “Gul e Curfew”- for his penchant for imposing curfews amidst the deteriorating law and order situation in Kashmir- did not enjoy power for long. He too was removed from power by the very same Centre that that installed him, in 1996. The pretext was some minor disturbance and the misuse of the notorious Article 356 of the Constitution. 

By this time, Farooq Abdullah, who had flirted with the Idea of confronting the Centre had mellowed down and learnt his “lessons”: the Centre or powers that be at the Centre had to be kept in good humor. Following this, Farooq Abdullah made an accord with Rajiv Gandhi- a political neophyte then who was thrust into position of power in the country after the assassination of his mother, Indira Gandhi. Soon after, owing to an n number of factors, Kashmir erupted into wide and broad based insurgency. 

The “coup” against Farooq Abdullah was not first of a kind; it was preceded by like such  coups in the modern history of Kashmir- all engineered and orchestrated by the Centre who always found “collaborators” to do the Centre’s hatchet job in Kashmir. These included Bakshi Ghulam Muhammad who betrayed his mentor and guide, Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah, then Mir Sadiq and Mir Qasim- all remembered in Kashmir as quislings.  In a nutshell, the Centre inserted and asserted itself in the state’s affairs insalubriously, unethically and amorally despite the nature of the relation between the Centre and Jammu and Kashmir: that of “Asymmetric federalism”. Asymmetric federalism among other things means that some states enjoyed a differential relationship with the Centre. That is, some states, like Jammu and Kashmir enjoyed more autonomy and this was constitutionally guaranteed. However, the Centre, historically and even contemporarily, played spoil sport and through the politics of subterfuge, an admixture of co-optation and coercion not only brazenly interfered but also diluted the state’s special status with the Centre in the process. To use a cliché, the Centre developed a “compulsive –obsessive” control freak kind of an interest in the state of Jammu and Kashmir.  That all this had negative and deleterious effects on Kashmir and its politics did not seem to distract or bother the Centre too much. As long as the Centre held real power and control over Kashmir, the Centre was fine with everything.

Fast forward a few decades. The insurgency in Kashmir had been contained but the sentiment against the Centre and for separatism remained and remains as strong as ever.  While Kashmir remained obstreperous, the Centre, as long as there was a patina of peace in the vale and a modicum of political process and a façade of governance, was okay with the state of affairs. In the meantime, however, Kashmir’s mainstream political space was “duopolistic”: a new party- the PDP- contended and jostled for power along with the National Conference. To recapitulate, the PDP won 28 seats in the 2014 Assembly elections and entered into a coalition government with the Hindu far Right party-the BJP- which won a landslide victory and mandate to govern India. But the BJP had a different Idea of India- one that was at odds with the “conventional” Idea of India. But Mufti Mohammad Sayyed – the late founder patron of the PDP –still went ahead and forged an alliance with the BJP. What, the nagging question is, explains Mufti’s decision? The deceased politician would know better but what we can do is speculate. In hind sight and in retrospect, it would appear that Mufti Muhammad Sayyed, may have been victim of an illusion and false impression about the “new” Idea of India, the change thereof and a supreme belief in himself to leave a legacy in Kashmir by doing something substantive for Kashmir.

In this sense, Mufti Muhammad Sayyed may have had something up his sleeve, but,for some reason, we do not know, the grand old man of politics, who himself by his past association with the Centre should have known better the Centre’s incurable bad habits towards Kashmir. This recurrent or even serial  bad behavior of the Centre was overlain by the BJP’S majoritarian Idea of India. How Mufti Muhammad Sayyed thought or assumed he could overcome the former and ignore the latter is a mystery that we will never come to know given that he has passed away now. But there are lessons for other politicians and leaders- aspiring and established- in Kashmir.

The Centre will not be cured of its obsessive control addiction vis a vis Kashmir.The strategies and techniques of the regional players then need to be reviewed to make the Centre rethink its approach towards Kashmir. While the nature of these strategies and their time horizon can or should be long term, but in the immediate, one immediate strategic review calls for not falling into the “trap” of government and governance in Kashmir.This has a special resonance for Mehbooba Mufti- upon who the baton of the leadership of the PDP has fallen upon and who faces a difficult dilemma, as we write. It is time to stand up for the dignity and self hood and identity of Kashmir’s politics. In a way, Mehbooba Mufti faces both and a choice. What course of action she chooses will leave an impact on Kashmir and its politics and determine its trajectory and nature. 

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