It has been nearly a fortnight now that J&K is without an elected government and governor N N Vohra is ruling the state. The demise of Mufti Sayeed has triggered a crisis. Tradition was suggestive of his daughter and PDP president Ms Mehbboba Mufti succeeding her father but she decided against being hurriedly given oath of office.
After 2014 elections resulted in a hung assembly, PDP and BJP stitched an alliance against the popular mood. The reasoning was plausible: both the parties represent diagonally divergent political space and the vote bank. But Mufti Sayeed, always lured by the big picture, justified his alliance saying the tie-up was forced by the mandate and not by political opportunism. An alliance with NC or Congress would not have only usurped the opposition space in Kashmir but also left a major chunk of mandate outside the power structure. No government could afford that situation, the PDP stated.
The two parties took nearly two months to arrange North Pole-South Pole alliance, as Mufti would describe it.
The two party rule continued for nearly nine months. There might have been some fundamental shifts in the policy set-up but what was apparent was unease, at least on the newspaper front-pages. There were issues and emotions at play in both the camps which were outside the scope of the mutual agenda. Display of these emotions did triggered bigger news than required. TV evolved as the main barometer of the comfort allies worked in. That was the key factor why there were no clear derivable that both parties could count and sell, after three quarters in power.
However, the new situation has new compulsions. The state currently ruled by one man, though an old school Kashmir expert, has limitations in managing the plethora of problems that have evolved over the decades. He has already started becoming news for suggesting NIA extension to the states and the political force that seems non-supportive is the PDP itself.
Omar Abdullah’s assertion that the lawmakers across parties have mandate to govern, is absolutely right. In a recent open letter to Ms Mufti he had rightly argued that people across J&K voted to have a government comprising of local faces.
Ms Mufti has already had a detailed meeting with her party lawmakers. She committed herself to the alliance with BJP, but refused to bargain midway.
Moreover Mehbooba utilized past two weeks to bring back the dissenting senior leaders in the party folds.
But there might be lot of irritants within the allies. It is an open secret that BJP edited out a sum of Rs 5000 crore from the Modi package at the last moment that would have helped state reclaim two power stations that NHPC owns. The first Rs 1200 crore grant that J&K desperately required to rebuild a blood devastated Kashmir was actually signed in January 2016! There might be other issue as well.
In such a situation the two parties must take a call on the future of the tie-up. BJP leadership must encourage PDP to decide how fast the state can have an elected government. If there are issues, they must be discussed and decided. In case, they see the alliance becoming a liability, they are within their rights to call it off. If there are no other options, political parties should go back to people to see if they have a change of mind. An impasse has never been in the interest of J&K and one-man-rule has rarely been a good equivalent of an elected government.