Why Mehbooba can’t afford to budge now?


Mehbooba Mufti in her recent interaction with the media dropped broad hints of resuming her alliance with BJP.  She praised her father’s “big decision” to ally with the saffron party.” This was a big sacrifice. He didn’t think of himself, he didn’t think of his party. He thought only about the people,” Mehbooba said. She, however, didn’t also commit herself to the government formation saying this will happen only if  she feels that the dreams of her late father Mufti Mohammad Sayeed will be fulfilled. “The CM’s chair is not our destination,” she said. However, the drift of Mehbooba’s explanation betrayed a little tilt towards government formation. PDP leader and the former finance minister Haseeb Drabu is in New Delhi. He has already held consultations with the senior BJP leaders including Arun Jaitley. Mehbooba has also reportedly met Jaitley.

Last week, there was a meeting between Ram Madhav and Mehbooba in Srinagar. Supposed to be a secret rendezvous Madhav landed at Srinagar airport after the normal operation hours, drove straight to Mehbooba’s official residence Fairview on Gupkar Road. The leaders met one-on-one for one hour. Mehbooba is reported to have made her by now familiar demands. She has sought some immediate CBMs to build a fresh rationale for the coalition, and a credible assurance on the time-bound implementation of the Agenda of Alliance.

But BJP has hardly given an impression that it is considering any of the demands, let alone exhibit any softness on AFSPA or return of a power project or two, which senior BJP leader Nirmal Singh said wasn’t even discussed in Mehbooba-Madhav meeting. Similarly, Madhav also affirmed that  “there will be no dilution or any new addition to the already agreed Agenda for Alliance”. On a positive note, Madhav did seem to accede to PDP’s demand for “timelines” in the implementation of the Agenda, with a thrust on a few still undisclosed issues. 

For PDP, the difficulties seem to have only increased after the political fallout from the Afzal Guru event organized by the JNU students.  This has polarized the country between the political right and the rest. Making matters further difficult for the party is that the still unfolding JNU controversy is resonating in Valley too. The University’s student union president Kanhaiya Kumar and his associate Omar Khalid have become a hero and their speeches have gone viral on social sites. What is more, JNU episode has once again made it clear that the BJP is unlikely to budge from its hardline ideological agenda, with Kashmir as its traditional centre piece.

Allying with the saffron party again amid this unhelpful scenario will reflect badly on PDP. More so, if there is no credible face saving gesture from BJP as is apparent from the statements being made by Madhav and Singh.  After holding out for around one and a half month, Mehbooba would desperately need such a gesture to justify the resumption of the coalition. Even if BJP were to agree to timelines on some issues, that will be a cold comfort to her constituency in the state which by now expects some dramatic movement on at least a few salient features of the Agenda of Alliance. This will only undo the advantages of Mehbooba’s holding out for so long.

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