Discordant Tones

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Two years after the BJP and PDP entered into polar alliance, nothing much has moved on the Kashmir front. After 2016 unrest and recent Lok Sabha poll crisis, the alliance should have gone for addressing the critical concerns rather than fighting their ideological tensions within, reports Tasavur Mushtaq

In March 2015 when Mufti Muhammad Sayeed took over as Chief Minister his cabinet had more faces from PDP than from ally BJP.

Headline “PDP takes lion’s share” was seen as “victory of PDP in taming the BJP”. Later, it was explained as “alliance understanding”.In the subsequent two years, the BJP-PDP, termed “north pole-south pole” alliance by PDP patron, “unpopular” by its president and “unholy” by their detractors had many tiff-offs. Tensions started quite early, in fact, hours after the Mufti’s maiden press conference. After the generational shift in PDP, tensions between allies have deepened. Now they are coming out of the closet, recent events suggest.

The “arrangement” that the two partners will have two seats each in six upper house seats exposed both of them as the plot went off the script.

A “major blow” to PDP came when BJP “managed” independent lawmaker from Zanskar Syed Baqir Rizvi to vote against PDP. Later after keeping on hold Doda MLA Shakti Parihar for around three hours, he was finally directed to vote for his own party.

I taught PDP a lesson for dis-respecting me,” Baqir said, accusing Naeem Akhtar of blocking his cabinet entry.

BJP had to cast one vote for PDP candidate Abdul Qayoom Dar (Rajouri) but instead it got its candidate Vikram Randhawa elected. Of six seats, BJP got three, NC, Congress and PDP, one each. In House of Elders, BJP has 11 berths, as many as PDP has!

Dar says his party must take “breach of trust” seriously. BJP’s state chief feigned ignorance insisting there was no arrangement. “We voted for our candidate since we knew PDP had 30 votes needed for winning the seat,” AAA Sharma was quoted saying. “There is no question of ditching our alliance partner as PDP had not approached us for any arrangement on voting.”

PDP insiders say Syed Baqir was “managed” by BJP. “Someone from independents voted for our candidate. We don’t know who he was? May be, he is someone from Kashmir,” Sharma said.

By then PDP had sacked Baqir as Vice Chairperson of Workers Construction Board, withdrawn his facilities including his ministerial status.

“I taught PDP a lesson for dis-respecting me,” Baqir said, accusing Naeem Akhtar of blocking his cabinet entry. By the time, Mehbooba Mufti had shown her displeasure, her ally had spiraled up another issue.

Mehbooba’s Industry Minister, Chander Prakash Ganga justified use of extreme force on protesters in Kashmir. “Whosoever is anti-national whether from Pakistan or inside the country has only one response – the bullet,” he was recorded saying in Jammu.“The way they are being treated in videos is how these stone-pelters will be set right”.Ganga goes on: “From whom they seek freedom, trust me they can be set right only by force as they are used to it.”

Sources said Mehbooba again shown “displeasure” over the comments.Two days after the “displeasure” came reaction from PDP’s vice-president Sartaj Madni. He termed Ganga as “fringe element” insisting “it is unbecoming of a senior minister to dish out such a sweeping, sickening and intimidating statement against the Kashmiri youth.”

Mehbooba Mufti as opposition leader protesting in Srinagar in 2010 against killings

In between the statements of Ganga and Madni, a mess was created. A day after Ganga spoke against Kashmir, on April 18, cabinet met in Jammu to discuss Kashmir situation. “BJP ministers were unwilling to discuss the situation,” one official said. “Their plea was simple: what is there to discuss?”

Finally when Mehbooba presided over the meeting, Dr Nirmal Singh, her deputy, stayed away: he had gone to his constituency. He came at 6 PM but no new meeting could happen.

In the meeting, “there were heated arguments between ministers from Kashmir and Jammu over the videos of using force on youth.  “BJP did not budge an inch from their stated position,” sources said. Ganga was part of the meeting.

Finally the cabinet expressed anguish over loss of lives and urged parents to counsel children, a statement issued to the media said.

“The government is clueless about ground situation and ideas about tackling it,” one university professor said. “Cabinet is expected to take decisions on normalizing the situation and not asking parents to discipline their wards.”

“Kashmir is burning, and Jammu simmering,” said National Conference’s provincial president, Devender Singh Rana. Yousuf Tarigami is asking for “introspection to know what went wrong from 2014 to 2017 that youth gets irritated and violent with the name of elections.”

Lamenting over the historically low polling, the leftist leader insisted, “instead of initiating dialogue and CBMs the response of the government has been to use more and more force.”

What actually went wrong is a question even a commoner is asking. “The boycott could have been peaceful also, but the anger on streets on the polling day and subsequent death of nine people is a crisis,” a scribe reporting Kashmir from last many years told Kashmir Life.

“It has been pretty unprecedented,” Mushtaq Ahmad, an old city resident said. “Even during peak militancy days, the polling days passed peacefully.”

“Words are more detrimental than deeds, believes a middle rung official. “There was no remorse from government about the killings, injuries, and abuse of pellet guns in 2016. The fuel is being added continuously by making anti-Kashmir statements.” The officer said Mehbooba’s toffee remark will haunt both Kashmir and PDP for long.

“Mehbooba has a track record of visiting homes of slain militants, reasoning ‘they are our own boys’,” the officer said. “Year 2016 changed all that.”

The youth of Kashmir, a senior doctor of GMC said was “dis-credited”. “He is a rogue, intolerant and worth a butchery unlike his counterpart in Jammu who is the role model,” the professor said. “It will have a cost.”

Kashmir’s street anger is not new for P Chidambaram, Rajnath Singh predecessor as Home Minister. “Alienation is nearly complete,” Chidambaram wrote recently, insisting PDP is seen as “betrayer” and BJP as “usurper”. “We are on brink of losing Kashmir.”

PDP’s youth leader Waheed-Ur-Rehman has constantly argued for “parenting rather than policing”. But the police his government controls barged into the college, outside his Pulwama home, and pushed Kashmir to a new weeklong crisis.

PDP’s youth leader Waheed-Ur-Rehman has constantly argued for “parenting rather than policing”. But the police his government controls barged into the college, outside his Pulwama home, and pushed Kashmir to a new weeklong crisis. The only reaction of government was to attach the college principal, his close relative!PDP government wants “peace”, says Muhammad Muzaffar, a businessman from south Kashmir, insisting it cannot be created in vacuum. “Where is the effort to get peace?” he asks.

“Our party is seeing everything from the security agencies prism,” one former PDP minister said. “Security agencies have their own role but political party like ours has a different role.”

A general belief is that “Kashmir has Doval doctrine in vogue”. Ajit Doval, the NSA, once said: “Do not overreact, it will pass off as they cannot sustain beyond a point.

The bigger crisis for PDP is its failure to get its Agenda of Alliance (AoA) implemented. Two years have already lost. Even Omar Abdullah wants its implementation.

“PDP lawmaker Javid Mustafa Mir was blunt and brute after the March encounter in Chadoora. “It is a case of targeted killings and Mehbooba is responsible for it as home minister of the state,” Mir said. “She got the three youth killed.” These killings, followed army Chief Bipin Rawat’s warning to protesters: “If they do not relent and create hurdle in our operations, then we will take tough action.” Interestingly, there was a lone militant with just a pistol!

The bigger crisis for PDP is its failure to get its Agenda of Alliance (AoA) implemented. Two years have already lost. Even Omar Abdullah wants its implementation.

The Agenda of Alliance initially took PDP two months to negotiate and, ten months later, after Mufti’s demise, Mehbooba spent a quarter in seeking an assurance for its implementation. Once, she famously said: “Why would we burn fingers for nothing,” adding she “won’t mind walking alone” if she “feels” the continuance of her party’s alliance with BJP “can’t achieve the political and developmental commitments outlined in the AoA.”

But the fact is the document is gathering dust. “BJP is managing its part without an Agenda and PDP is unable to implement even what is promised to them,” admitted a PDP young man.

Even governance is impacted. The partners are at logger heads on administrative front as well. “It is like two governments running the state in their own way,” a secretary level officer said.

In one of her initial-days cabinet meetings, BJP protested compelling Mehbooba to leave it mid-way. Angry, she straightway drove home and the hatchet was buried by BJP visited her, later. Then, the issue was KPS cadre allocation. BJP wanted Delhi to take the call. The name of service was the confusion among the Jammu ministers, said an official otherwise “75 per cent of the KPS cadre belongs to Jammu and only one fourth is from Kashmir.”

Then came the embarrassment when Speaker directed to “expunge” statement of leader of house. “Those working to scrap Article 370 will be doing a big anti-national act,”  Mehbooba had said. Speaker Kavinder Gupta’s assertion suggested BJP goes against Agenda of Alliance by reiterating the position that it needs Article 370 to go.

Social media was abuzz recently with stories about how Mehbooba was sidelined when Modi inaugurated Nashri tunnel.

Social media was abuzz recently with stories about how Mehbooba was sidelined when Modi inaugurated Nashri tunnel. Press Information Bureau (PIB) released a photograph that showed  Mehbooba  as a waiting player in the event forcing state’s Information department to release a new photograph.

“Modi was primarily briefed by governor N N Vohra and not by Chief Minister,” sources said, adding, it was “against the established protocol in democratic set-up.”

Late Mufti Muhammad Sayeed taking oath as chief minister in March 2015

Tensions are being felt in administrative issues as well. “In case of Jammu bills, nod comes so easily but in Kashmir case queries are raised again and again,” admitted one official.

While crop insurance was extended to all Jammu districts for all crops, the government has not yet been able to rope Atal Fasal BeemaYojana for Kashmir. “Some companies evincing interest say they would insure only maize and paddy leaving out major crops like apple and saffron,” insiders in government said.

 “It is strange that the government had invited separate bids for Kashmir and Jammu regions instead of inviting a single bid for the whole state,” Informed an official, privy of the developments.

With money in bank, JCCI president, Rakesh Gupta launched a “identify and kill” campaign against the Rohingya Refugees and Bangladeshis in order to force them out of Jammu. Though  Mehbooba said “action will be taken”, there was no follow-up.

In an attempt to boost the business chambers of both the regions, the government approved Rs 25 lakhs for each chamber. The money stands disbursed to JCCI while its counterpart in Kashmir has not received a penny.

With money in bank, JCCI president, Rakesh Gupta launched a “identify and kill” campaign against the Rohingya Refugees and Bangladeshis in order to force them out of Jammu. Though  Mehbooba said “action will be taken”, there was no follow-up.

An insider in tourism said “Jammu is giving tough competition to Kashmir”.

“PDP workers are angry though they are with party, but disgruntled,” PDP’s senior leader and former minister Qazi Afzal told a news channel recently. “PDP emerged as an alternative to mitigate problems and not to rule against wishes of people.”

A cook, Abdul Karim of Beerwah, said “the tenure from 2002-2005 is the only good thing done by PDP, rest is politics.”

An additional Deputy Commissioner rank officer told Kashmir Life that how Central University in Jammu is running, while there is no progress in valley.

Abdul Hamid, a staunch supporter of Mufti Sayed laments that PDP is losing its base in Kashmir but “BJP has everything intact.”

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