Playing Enemies Now

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Soon after dramatically felling the state government by withdrawing support to the PDP,  the BJP has gone on the offensive, by reverting to its hard-line Hindutva posture on J&K. This was underlined by the BJP president Amit Shah’s grand rally in Jammu on the occasion of the “historic martyrdom anniversary” of the Jan Sangh founder Syama Prasad Mookerjee. Shah projected the rally as part of  the party’s election  campaign for 2019. In his speech, Shah attacked the PDP for discriminating against Jammu and Ladakh, thereby playing to a long-standing refrain -albeit disingenuous in nature – in the two provinces. Shah also blamed the J&K government, by which he meant the PDP only, for being lax in implementing the programmes framed by the centre for the state. 

The indefensible criticism by the BJP leader has provided the PDP an alibi to respond in kind.   In fact, the beleaguered party seemed to be asking for such an opportunity, to put its side of the story which as of now nobody is willing to listen in the state. In a series of tweets the PDP president and the former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti  said  the discrimination against Jammu and Ladakh had no basis in reality as the BJP was an equal partner in the government. Mehbooba also highlighted the BJP’s reneging on the Agenda of Alliance as one of the reasons for the saffron party to ditch the alliance.   

But will it help the PDP? Unlikely in the short term. The state government’s fall in the wake of the BJP pulling out its support to Mehbooba brought about an inglorious end to an alliance long teetering on the edge. What nobody in the state could have imagined even in their wildest dreams was that it will be the BJP which will quit the alliance. This was deemed to be the prerogative of the PDP only which in the first place had enabled a Hindu nationalist party to rule India’s only Muslim majority state for the first time in the past 70 years.  The party had gone against its long-standing ideological position in Kashmir and the nature of its electoral mandate to ally with the BJP. It had stuck to the alliance even through five month long unrest in 2016 when a New Delhi backed hard-line response to the protests left around hundred people killed and several hundred completely or partially blinded. 

So, the BJP move was certain to have put the PDP in an embarrassing situation. For Mehbooba, the loss was greater. The alliance has left her once vaunted political reputation in tatters.  A reputation she had built painstakingly over the years by getting down and dirty on the street.  At one time she had successfully incarnated a leader who was relatively more credible mainstream political proponent of a shade of Kashmiri nationalism willing to settle for a respectable political deal within Indian constitution. But in power Mehbooba proved herself an out and out disaster. And now with the BJP leaving her in the lurch, she hasn’t been left with any place to hide.  Considering the unenviable situation she has boxed herself in, it is difficult to foresee that she will be back in favour with public anytime soon.  All that can save her and for that matter any other mainstream politician and make them politically relevant is to stay true to their respective politics, both in opposition and the power.

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