Govt. formation: PDP’s dilemma

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THE president of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Mehbooba Mufti finds herself in a pitiable condition today. She was opposed to her father Mufti Mohammed Sayeed’s decision to form a coalition with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Indian Kashmir. Chief minister Mufti’s death last month left her with a crippling inheritance.

At a meeting of her party on Feb 3, Mehbooba admitted that it was an ‘unpopular’ decision which her father had taken, accused the BJP of “overt and covert” sabotage and said she would have to “reassess” the situation. In the same breath she said that she was ready to go by her father’s decision “even if it meant finishing off her political career”.

By then the Governor N.N. Vohra had had enough of her posturing. An upright and able man, he had served as defence and home secretary with distinction. In 1992 in New Delhi, he had finalised an accord on Siachen with his counterpart from Pakistan but was badly let down by prime minister P.V. Narasimha Rao at the last minute. He imposed governor’s rule in Indian Kashmir on Jan 9 because Mehbooba refused to take the oath of office.

If Mehbooba Mufti continues as before, her prestige will suffer.

The action was taken under Section 92 of Kashmir’s constitution. It can be invoked only if “the whole machinery of government has broken down”.

This was not the case. She had a majority in the house.

Rajiv Gandhi was sworn in hours after Indira Gandhi’s assassination in 1984. He did not love his mother less than Mehbooba did her father. The plea of “bereavement” wore off and so did the governor’s patience.

In the night of Jan 31, he sent a fax to both the political parties, the PDP and BJP, to decide by the evening of Feb 2. Mehbooba as well as the BJP’s leaders met the governor on Feb 2. The PDP had its demands; the BJP refused to comply.

Mehbooba said, “Before a government is formed in coalition with the BJP, the government of India should take certain J&K-specific confidence-building measures (CBMs) to win over the trust of the people so that the new government gets space to function.”

In plain words, New Delhi should help her regain the popularity which her father had lost.

New Delhi has no desire to help the PDP to repair the damage to its popularity which the coalition pact inflicted. Mufti had complied obediently with the BJP’s demands — the rearrest of the separatist leader Masarat Alam, on the display of Kashmir’s flag, cow slaughter and Article 370.

Kashmir is cash-starved. It could not meet the demands of even ad hoc or temporary employees. The CBMs include handing over to the Srinagar government the Uri and Dulhasti hydroelectric power plants; removal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act from some areas; return of lands still occupied by the army and paramilitary forces which are not required for defence.

How could Modi concede all that now? But if Mehbooba gets nothing and continues as before her prestige will suffer. If she breaks up, Modi will never forgive her and her senior colleagues will be disappointed. If fresh elections are held, she will face a disappointed electorate. Ram Madhav, the BJP’s general secretary, made plain that “no new demands or elements can be added” to the agenda of the alliance.

Mehbooba knows the dangers facing her now. She is bitter about the way Modi treated Mufti. He was “virtually made to run from pillar to post by New Delhi to get even constitutionally guaranteed funds”. This, despite the fact that he had “taken a huge political risk of going against the public sentiment in Kash¬mir by aligning with the BJP”, a sorry admission.

She and Mufti’s henchmen, who sha¬red in the spoils of power, ascribe it to his “vision”.

Others, rightly, to Mufti’s lust for power. Modi took him so much for granted that at a public rally in Srinagar last year, he publicly snubbed the chief minister. “I need nobody’s advice on Kashmir in the world or analysis from any one in this world on Kashmir.” Do you blame him for taking his host for granted?

Only five days earlier Mufti had said, “Toofan ka admi hai (a stormy personality). He is not communal at all.” No one respects a man who ingratiates himself.

Significantly, Mehbooba’s senior colleagues do not voice her strong rhetoric. They as well as her own compulsions make for the continuance of the coalition with all the perils. Militancy has increased. The Abdullahs, no friends of their people, are waiting in the wings; hoping to regain power through fresh elections. The separatists present a pathetic spectacle — divided and bereft of policies relevant to the needs of the people. Weep for Kashmir.

 

 

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