Questions that Mehbooba needs to answer

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PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti’s meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi seems to have all but cleared the decks for government formation in J&K. Mehbooba is meeting her party on March 24 to take a final call on forming the government. The meeting will most likely choose Mehbooba as the leader of the party, paving way for his take over as the chief minister.

Mehbooba termed the meeting with PM “very positive,” while staying short of announcing the formation of the government. However, her body language left nobody in doubt as to her thinking about re-stitching an alliance with BJP. What Mehbooba tellingly didn’t explain was whether Prime Minister did accede to her demand for the implementation of some Confidence Building Measures. Three demands were high on Mehbooba’s agenda.   One, vacation of illegally held land by the Army or else compensation at market rates, a demand that Army has taken some steps to act upon in recent past. Second, announcement of the two smart cities for J&K, one for Jammu and another for Srinagar. And the third, which was the main sticking point is the return of one or two of the power projects owned by NHPC in the state. However, Mehbooba’s statement to media after meeting Modi makes no mention of whether the Prime Minister has agreed to act upon these demands in a time bound manner, something that PDP has been pressing for. And whether the all important demand for the return of the power projects has been, at least, conceded in principle.  The answer to these questions will determine how people respond to the government formation.

Congress party has already questioned the need for the inordinate delay in the formation of the government, if all that was needed was Mehbooba’s meeting with the Prime Minister and his alleged private assurances to her.

“Mehbooba Mufti was instrumental in imposition of Governor’s rule.  She owes an explanation to the people of the state as to what new things she has been granted by the BJP-led central government over which she delayed the government formation for two-and-a-half months,” Congress president G A Mir said. Omar Abdullah rubbed in the same fact. “2 1/2 months after Mehbooba refused to take over citing the need for “CBMs” we are right back where we started”.

So far, only positive signal that we have received from New Delhi is in the form of the tweets from the finance minister Arun Jaitley. In a series of tweets on Monday evening, Jaitley tellingly said that the BJP was committed to the Agenda of Governance for J&K.  One can ask which Agenda of Governance? PDP and BJP have mutually agreed Agenda of Alliance. Why the BJP is now refusing to call the Agenda of Alliance by its name? There are no answers to this question so far. Agenda of Governance would literally translate into the day to day governance for the state, while as Agenda of Alliance has a distinct politico-ideological dimension. The Agenda of Alliance talks not only about the return of the power projects or the vacation of the land illegally held by Army, it also talks about the efforts for the resolution of the larger political issue of Kashmir. The Agenda of Alliance also seeks upholding  of the special constitutional position of Kashmir in Indian Union.  But over the past two and a half months of logjam, BJP has consistently refused to reaffirm its commitment to these aspects of the party’s alliance with PDP. Now when Mehbooba seems all but ready to form the government with BJP, people in Kashmir want convincing answers to these questions.

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