Mehbooba’s Time Starts Now

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As Mehbooba Mufti readies to take over as the first woman Chief Minister of J&K, she has nothing concrete to offer for her three months of wait. In the end it appears as if the BJP had the last laugh. The saffron party made no public concession. In the end, Mehbooba behaved as if she had asked for nothing and BJP acted as if it yielded no quarter.

Talking to reporters after her breakthrough meeting with the Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Mehbooba said she was “satisfied now”. She didn’t elaborate what had satisfied her. It was a broad-brushed statement to create an impression that the PM had agreed to all her demands. Now the biggest challenge for her government would be to vindicate that she indeed had a reason to be satisfied with PM’s assurances.

First six months of the coalition government will thus be crucial. People will judge it by the action on some key points of the common minimum programme. More so, on the narrowed down three demands, which Mehbooba sought to be fulfilled before she renewed the coalition.  One, the vacation of the land illegally held by the Army or else a compensation at the market rates to the owners. Second, announcement of the two smart cities for J&K, one for Jammu and another for Srinagar. And the third which PDP privileged over many other demands is the return of one or two of the power projects owned by NHPC in the state. The Agenda of Alliance framed by the two parties mentions that the coalition government ‘will explore modalities for transfer of Dulhasti and Uri hydro power projects to J&K as suggested by the Rangarajan Committee report”.

The progress in the implementation of these demands in the next six months is thus critical to the political standing of Mehbooba. Considering the ten months of the coalition government saw little or no action on the ground including even on the all important issue of the flood relief, the people will certainly want some beginning to be made on the key points of the Agenda of Alliance. More so, in regard to the purely administrative issues raised by Mehbooba. These are the doables as against the contentious political steps agreed to in the common minimum programme. And if even these can’t be implemented, or at least a beginning is not made, it will reflect badly on Mehbooba.

Making things further difficult for Mehbooba will be  the series of steps Governor N N Vohra took in his almost three month of rule. Vohra moved swiftly on the pending governance issues including some of those on the Agenda of Alliance. One such issue is the vacation of land by the Army. Army agreed to return over 350 acres of state land under its occupation in twin capitals of Srinagar and Jammu and in southern Anantnag and frontier Kargil districts of Jammu and Kashmir by March 31.

Second, Governor has ensured the quick disbursement of the inordinately delayed flood relief among flood-hit families and the traders. In little under a month, the government released Rs 700 crore to the flood-hit— 54,335 people whose houses were damaged and 23,112 traders hit by flood. Flood relief was one of the major election promises of PDP. But in the ten months that it ruled the state with BJP, centre skimped on the flood relief to the state. Now that Mehbooba has finally agreed to form the government, it is only the easier part of her challenge that is over. A far tougher call begins now. And Mehbooba’s accomplishment will depend on how much she holds BJP to its commitments in the Agenda of Alliance.

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