March 17, 2016 8:02 pm

Renewed PDP-BJP warmth

In an apparent outreach to PDP, Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley  told the Parliament on Monday that Central Government was willing to walk an extra mile for Jammu and Kashmir. He also said that the Government stood by its commitment for “equitable development” of all three regions—Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh—of the state and implement Rs 80,000 crore to achieve this objective. He said the Government was committed to set up various institutions, like IIT, IIM and AIIMS, announced earlier for the state. It is the first such statement made by a top BJP leader which is apparently intended to address the apprehensions of the PDP leader Mehbooba Mufti who has sought credible assurances about the implementation of the Agenda of Alliance before she agrees to form the government.

However, Jaitley’s assurance is only generic in nature. This much of minimum commitment to the agenda was even otherwise taken for granted by the people in J&K. The  Rs 80,000 crore package  would be implemented over five years. And much of it comprises the already agreed development projects for the state. The IITS, IIMS and AIIMS have already been announced for the state and their implementation is in progress. Jaitley has said little specific that could, at least address the PDP’s known demands. For example, he has said nothing about the return of power projects, announcement of the two smart cities for the state, or the tallks with Hurriyat. So, in effect, Jaitley has said little that could create a fresh rationale for PDP to be a part of the coalition with BJP.   

On the contrary, the central government has certainly supported the Governor  N N Vohra. His two month rule so far has witnessed some focus on the governance. Vohra has brought some action to the scene. His government has distributed the inordinately delayed relief to the flood-hit traders. In a significant statement, Army has said it is committed to vacating land it had agreed to during meetings held over last year with the state Government. “Army would like to clarify that it is committed to meeting all the mutually agreed decisions arising not only out of Civil Military Liaison Conference, 2015 but of all previous such CMLC meetings,” a defence spokesman said.  This has been one of the major demands of the PDP. In fact, PDP has made the vacation of the illegally occupied land by the Army as one of its major prestige issues.

But while BJP has refused to make this concession to PDP, it has let the Governor Vohra take credit for it. At one level, this looks strange. If such a statement from the army would have come as part of the ongoing negotiations over the government formation between the PDP and BJP, it would have  facilitated the resumption of PDP-BJP alliance. But BJP for reasons best known to the party has stayed short of doing it.  In fact, over the past two months, BJP has never given an impression that it is seriously considering PDP’s demands. Now some PDP leaders are claiming that the flood relief and the Army’s accommodative position on the land is the result of the party’s efforts. This might well be so but how are people going to take it on its face value. The fact is, if PDP wants to form the government with BJP again, it should get BJP to make a credible beginning on some key points of the Agenda of Alliance. Without any such concession, the alliance would be detrimental to the PDP’s political standing in the long term.

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