PDP: The lesser partner in the coalition

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If the  two years of the coalition government are anything to go by, it seems like an unequal relationship between PDP and BJP with former playing the second fiddle. Between the two, it is PDP that seems to have ideologically mellowed down and cast its soft-separatist agenda aside. Not once has Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti talked about self-rule. Not once has she said that Kashmir is an issue as she was won’t to do. On the contrary, BJP has stayed true to its ideological moorings. It has intermittently reiterated its commitment to the abrogation of Article 370. In fact, in its period at the helm,  the party has moved the debate away from the resolution of Kashmir to the state’s integration into India. In Valley, the saffron party is also perceived to have reneged on all its local commitments like the revocation of AFSPA, return of power projects, to say nothing of initiating dialogue with the separatist groups.

Similarly on contentious proposals like Sainik and Kashmiri Pandit colonies, PDP has appeared unconvincing in its explanations while as BJP has shown consistency in its stance. Mehbooba has also made some statements that seem patently geared to keep BJP and New Delhi in good humour. Her party has hardly inspired confidence that it can protect the special constitutional status of the state against BJP’s determined efforts to weaken it. That is, despite PDP’s protestations to the contrary. One such issue that cast this reality in sharp relief was the J&K Land Transfer Act which sought curbs on taking possession of or construction activity on the property transferred, unless it was registered in accordance with the law of the land. Though BJP was initially supportive of the amendment, being party to the cabinet decision to introduce it in the House where its passage was thus assured, the party suddenly baulked when it was due to come up for vote. The National Conference and the Congress both of which had offered unqualified support, opposed the move and pressed for the passage of the bill. Even PDP legislator Altaf Bukhari supported the Opposition in its demand to put the bill to vote.

But this was not to be. The bill was sent to the select committee. BJP feared that the passing of the bill would bar the transfer of the property in Jammu to non-state subjects, plugging thus a chink in the Article 370 armour which forbids outsiders to settle in the state and which BJP has always sought to revoke.  However, Mehbooba put a positive spin on the botch-up, stating the bill was being sent to the select committee to reconcile the differences between Kashmir and Jammu.

This is but one example. There are many more examples where BJP has gone along with the BJP’s outlook on an important issue concerning the state, the latest being the CM falling in line with her ally’s policy on the dialogue with separatists. While on April 24,  Mehbooba had met the PM with a proposal to start dialogue with Hurriyat, her request was rebuffed. There has, however, been some feeble change in the PDP’s rhetoric in recent past with some of its leaders taking exceptions some crude remarks made by the BJP leaders about handling Kashmir and Kashmiris. But the PDP is still chary of taking the fight where it matters the most, for example, the implementation of the Agenda of Alliance. It has so far tamely ignored the BJP’s refusal to act on the common minimum programme. As the PDP tries to re-assert its political space in the coalition, it should prioritize the execution of the Alliance’s governance agenda. More so, now that the coalition’s own future looks uncertain.

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