As the PDP and BJP prepare to take power again as allies in Jammu and Kashmir, credit is being given to Prime Minister Minister Narendra Modi for the rapprochement. Despite what looked like PDP leader Mehbooba Mufti’s delaying tactics, Modi remained firm on the BJP’s commitment to the agenda of alliance signed with her late father, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed. Modi did not want any theatrics over the alliance as he was firm that it had been formed in the larger interests of the people of Jammu and Kashmir, an informed source in New Delhi told IANS. “It was the prime minister who believed that continuing the alliance with the PDP was for peace in the state and for continuing the larger agenda of improving relations with (India’s) neighbours,” the source said.
Echoing Modi’s message, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley told the Rajya Sabha that the BJP-PDP alliance agenda would be implemented in letter and spirit and there was no turning back on that commitment. Jaitley later said in a talk show: “We lost Mufti Sahib when we needed him the most. Mehbooba must now take the call and continue her father’s vision.” Modi then conveyed to Mehbooba through emissaries that he was ready to meet her to allay whatever fears she may have vis-a-vis heading a coalition government in the state. “That did the final trick. Although she met the prime minister just for half hour she was assured all possible support and advised to carry forward her father’s vision as stated in the agenda of alliance,” a high level BJP source said.
Jammu and Kashmir had a Peoples Democratic Party-Bharatiya Janata Party coalition government for about 10 months when then chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed died on January 7. The state came under Governor’s Rule the next day. But instead of taking charge as chief minister at the head of the coalition, Mehbooba kept dragging the issue, at one time leading to speculation that she was planning to jettison the alliance. The BJP made it clear that no new demands by the PDP leader would be met, and that the alliance would be based on the agenda agreed to earlier.
At the same time, BJP president Amit Shah and national general secretary Ram Madhav, who is in charge of Jammu and Kashmir affairs, stated that the alliance between the PDP and BJP was intact. Mehbooba, the PDP president, sought fresh assurances on the agenda of alliance. The PDP wavered but the BJP stood firm. “There is no turning back on the agenda signed with Mufti Sahib. It is final and will be implemented,” the BJP kept saying, at times embarrassing state BJP leaders who did not want to look as if they were taking orders from the PDP. The BJP source said Modi’s address to the international Sufi conference in New Delhi this month was an effort to reach out to everybody and affirm his faith in the pluralism of India.
As Mehbooba remained entrenched in her stated position that she was not hungry for power, the BJP deputed Ram Madhav to speak to her twice. One of these visits was planned to be secret. “She came to Delhi. Met Amit Shah and all seemed to have been lost,” the source told IANS. “Everybody said it was all over between the two parties. She rushed back to Srinagar.” On Thursday, in her address to PDP legislators and senior leaders, Mehbooba thanked the BJP for its steadfast commitment to the agenda of alliance. She also thanked the BJP and the central government for not trying to poach on her flock by engineering defections. “The BJP has definitely behaved differently,” she told her party. She was alluding to the traditional horse-trading undertaken in Jammu and Kashmir by the Congress in the past.
The source explained why: “Creating a larger constituency where Jammu and Kashmir becomes a bridge and not a roadblock in India-Pakistan relations (was important). “This is what Prime Minister Modi envisages. What further assurance did she want?” asked the source. Mehbooba has finally agreed to start her political career’s first governance innings by trusting Modi — as her father did. It is highly unlikely the two have reached an agreement without understanding each other. In the process, Jammu and Kashmir, India’s only Muslim-majority state, will get its first woman chief minister.
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