Mehbooba Mufti’s Gamble

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The government formation in J&K remains deadlocked more than two months after the Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s death. PDP president Mehbooba Mufti has sought the announcement of some Confidence Building Measures and the assurance of the time bound implementation of the Agenda of Alliance before she resumes alliance with BJP. Both parties have been negotiating for a common ground through regular consultations. And they seemed to be reportedly making good progress and the prospect for the government formation was only brightening by the day. But just when people in J&K  were looking forward to PDP and BJP to form the government again in the next week, BJP General Secretary Ram Madhav killed the immediate prospect of it in a dramatic new statement on Thursday.

Speaking a day after PDP president Mehbooba Mufti’s meeting with BJP president Amit Shah which had increased chances of an early announcement of the government formation, Madhav said  that BJP was not ready to accept any “fresh conditions” from PDP.

“We are not ready to accept any new demand. Whatever expectations are there, would be possibly fulfilled only after formation of a government,” Madhav told media. “It’s not possible to form the government on conditions”.

Madhav’s statement was followed by a barrage of tweets from the PDP hashtag which pointed to the fast deteriorating relations between the parties. The party made it clear that it sought nothing new but wanted the good-faith implementation of an already agreed Agenda of Alliance.

“PDP did not seek anything outside the pre agreed Agenda of Alliance from the BJP,” the PDP tweet read. The subsequent tweets revealed the hardening of stand by PDP too. The party now urged BJP to commit to the upholding of the special constitutional position of the state in Indian Union . “Agenda of Alliance says present position will be maintained on all constitutional provisions pertaining to J&K including special status,” another post read. “PDP is only asking BJP to walk the pre-agreed Agenda of Alliance on the existing status of J&K”.

In a span of little under half an hour, the party issued 21 tweets, all holding BJP to its commitment to the Agenda of Alliance. PDP specifically wanted some action on three mutually agreed points in the Agenda of Alliance to make the government. One, vacation of illegally held land by the Army or else compensation at market rates, a demand that Army has already started acting upon. Second, announcement of two smart cities for J&K, one of Jammu and another for Srinagar. And the third, which is believed to have proved the main sticking point is the return of one or two of the power projects owned by NHPC in the state. Sudden turnaround in the situation has taken aback PDP leadership in the state who remain “clueless” about what caused the last minute meltdown.

So, the uncertainty continues to hang over the government formation, now more heavily than before. If anything, BJP’s refusal to live by its commitments  in the Agenda of Alliance is a testimony to its bad faith. Resisting the demand for a time frame means that BJP doesn’t think that the agenda could be implemented in the next five years. However, what is of real importance is not that BJP is not ready to walk the talk on the common minimum programme but Mehbooba is demanding that it do so. And this is a development of profound political significance. This is the first time since Natonal Conference founder Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah signed the 1975 accord,  that a Kashmiri mainstream leader has stood up to Delhi’s bad faith on Kashmir and demanded serious concessions for the state. In that sense, we are witnessing a paradigm shift in the mainstream politics of the state. And it is a welcome change. If at last a mainstream politician is privileging people over power, this shift in priorities should be welcomed.

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