Mehbooba needs to re-assert her core politics

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The Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti has once again lavished praise on the Prime Minister Narendra Modi, saying only he was in position to resolve Kashmir. The CM has a point. Modi, as she explained, has “the  mandate of the entire country”  and that the country will support him should he take steps to resolve Kashmir. However, while people in Kashmir will have no issues with the literal meaning of what Mehbooba has said, few people appreciate or share the hope that she has exhibited. The statement is seen as little more than an attempt to keep the PM in good humour. It is also contradictory to the signals emanating from New Delhi which only point to New Delhi’s new penchant for the use of excessive force in Kashmir. In fact, the government recently told Supreme Court that it will not hold dialogue with the separatists and will only talk to the recognized political parties once the peace is restored in the state. This not only means that there will be no dialogue but also that the BJP is not interested in fulfilling its commitments in the Agenda of Alliance, which formed the basis of its coalition with the PDP. And in this mutually agreed agenda, the BJP had specifically agreed to hold dialogue with separatist groups. But it now appears that the most of the common minimum programme was agreed in bad faith. So far PDP has done little to hold its coalition partner to its commitments, not only in regard to the dialogue with pro-freedom camp  but also on other important  agreements which had lent a facade of justification to this ideologically divergent coalition.

 

And Mehbooba has been the worst victim of the bruising alliance. Here was a politician who built her support base brick by brick by plying soft-separatism as her political creed. She rose to power by appealing to Kashmiri nationalism. But she seems to have let go off this ideological narrative so effortlessly and even cheaply. The turn in Mehbooba’s brand of politics has left many people shocked, more so in Kashmir, her core constituency. Ever since People’s Democratic Party was floated in 1999, Mehbooba had worked tirelessly on the ground to forge a political base for the party. She appropriated Hurriyat narrative and made aspects of it mainstream, a strategy that for a while seemed to play well with masses in Kashmir. She did the job so well as to steer PDP to power within three years of its founding.  In landmark 2002 Assembly  polls, PDP secured 16 seats in Valley to enable the party to form government in a coalition with Congress. The party grew from strength to strength.  That is, until she ran into BJP. Things have become increasingly difficult ever since. Though unrest last year divested her leadership of much of its credibility, her tame politics since has dented it further.  She has played a willing second fiddle to the BJP, letting it dictate not only the priorities of the coalition but also renege on the agenda of alliance. The praise for the PM is good, including even the truth of what she said about Modi but this hardly advances the cause of the dialogue on Kashmir. And to that end, Mehbooba’s  generous encomiums for the PM have achieved little. The CM needs to re-assert her core politics to make some real redeeming difference in the state.

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