BJP’s Plan B?

by Khursheed Wani

Almost two months after the fall of Mehbooba-led BJPDP coalition in Jammu and Kashmir, the formation of a new government does not look to be a close possibility. This is in contrast to the BJP’s initial enthusiasm for staking claim to form a government with the supposed support of legislators from other parties. The huge shortfall to reach the magic number of 44 and the powerful anti-defection law that bars the legislators belonging to registered political parties from changing their loyalties actually bulldozed the idea.

Within seven weeks of exhibiting dissent against the leadership, at least two of PDP’s five rebel legislators have reconciled with the party. Lawmakers of National Conference and Congress don’t appear to be vulnerable. In such a state of affairs, Sajjad Gani Lone and Bashir Dar of the People’s Conference alone form the bankable twin for the BJP to do any manoeuvring. But anyone with 27 members, cannot stake a claim for government formation.

But, BJP is unwilling to give up on its dream project. Grapevine is that some BJP thinkers are mulling the idea to stake a claim for government formation in December despite the number shortfall. With a politician from BJP background holding the crucial governor’s position, the party leadership must be confident that the opportunity to form the government pending a floor test would be given to them.

Here, the apna aadmi hai comment of BJP state president and legislator Ravinder Raina assumes significance. The party already has Dr Nirmal Singh in the Speaker’s chair to do the honours.

The inspiration for the BJP’s newest plan has come from its own history. The three-time Prime Minister late AB Vajpayee’s first term in office realized through this experimentation. In 1998, Vajpayee held the post for 13 days only. It fell on the floor test. Interestingly, the crucial vote that tilted the balance was cast by a Kashmiri, Saifuddin Soz, who violated the party whip and counselling of his boss Farooq Abdullah. Then, National Conference was BJP’s ally and remained so for four more years till Omar graduated as the ‘poster boy’ of external affairs ministry.

The recent experiment happened in Karnataka where BJP staked a claim for the formation of government despite Congress and its allies have more numbers. Pending a floor test, Karnataka Governor invited the BJP to form the government and a Chief Minister was administered the oath of office. The scope for horse-trading was set to the extent that the floor test was scheduled two weeks after the oath ceremony. It was the Supreme Court that pushed the plan topsy-turvy by ordering a floor test within 24 hours. The BJP humiliatingly failed in the floor test and the peoples’ mandate prevailed.

Some analysts foresee BJP replicating the experiment and wear a ‘badge of honour’ that it formed a government in Jammu and Kashmir and installed a man from Jammu Hindu as the Chief Minister.

The government would not pass the floor test but the experiment would be sold in the upcoming general elections as a trailer of long-term BJP plan to fully control a Muslim majority state. The plan also includes that BJP Chief Minister after failing the floor test would recommend dissolution of the state assembly, a card that was not used by Mehbooba, perhaps due to inexperience when she was humiliatingly dethroned.

There is no objection per se to the nomination of a citizen of Jammu province to the hot seat. The myth that Chief Executive of Jammu and Kashmir can be from Kashmir valley alone was first broken in November 2005 when Congress installed Ghulam Nabi Azad, a resident of Doda, as the Chief Minister. There is no bar for anyone other than belonging to the Muslim community to become a J&K Chief Minister. The basic point is that anyone who assumes the office must come through a legitimate and acceptable democratic process. It is not about scoring a point but adhering to the democratic norms. The people in Kashmir have irreversibly lost faith in elections and other democratic processes. This experiment won’t shock them but essentially this would completely dismantle the last remnants of democracy argument in the embattled region.

The possibility of BJP’s surprise move brings the two mainstream parties of Kashmir, PDP and NC, back to focus. Staying away from the proposed local bodies’ elections has brought these parties on a common cause to fight for the special status of Jammu and Kashmir. It is time for them to strategize to pre-empt any BJP’s plan.

One solution can be to revalidate the offer of support to PDP to form the government, which was offered at the beginning of 2015 by Omar Abdullah and later referred to as ‘one-term offer’. The other option is to form an NC-led government with PDP’s external support. In both these arrangements, the Congress can also be suitably accommodated and it would not go against its national agenda to fight the BJP.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here