Easing The Burden

By R S Gull

Killing Time: Former BJP minister Bali Baghat playing cricket with cops at his official residence in Jammu.
Killing Time: Former BJP minister Bali Baghat playing cricket with cops at his official residence in Jammu.

J&K is as distant from an elected government as it was last week. But the net difference is the change. Unlike last week, there is a possibility of the state having a government. Allies PDP and BJP have opened up to each other. After a few telephone talks in the past week, BJP is flying its top party-man to meet PDP president in Srinagar.

PDP insiders suggest the party under the “absolute command” of Ms Mehbooba Mufti is neither trying to renegotiate the deal nor to resort to any bargain to neutralize the impact of the “unpopular decision”. They are, however, seeking a situation that will make the rest of the term “different” from the 9-months tenure of Mufti.

BJP is almost on the same page, at least the state part of it. BJP may not accommodate its ally beyond what has been agreed already. But state BJP also wants a schedule of implementation of the Agenda. Interestingly, they also have issue with some of the agreed commonalities enshrined in the Agenda of Alliance which, they claim, PDP is not keen to implement!

In restoring talks, and not renegotiation as certain reports suggest, both the parties are trying to ease their own burden. BJP being the leading party at the central level faces a serious credibility issue if PDP deserts it. It may not be able to hawk its Kashmir victory if it is out of the scene in J&K and that will make Congress’s secular argument stronger. BJP faces a series of state elections in 2017.

Both the parties have one serious crisis pressurizing them within – their own lawmakers. J&K’s BJP lawmakers have soar throats after explaining almost to everybody in Delhi that the slide in their vote banks will literally make BJP perish. They want a state government in the state with BJP as its part. Almost on daily basis, they are talking to their PDP counterparts, impressing them to keep the party under pressure in favour of government formation. Former ministers of both the parties are busy in routine interactions in Jammu and sole motive is to pressurize their bosses.

In the last meeting that Ms Mufti led, not a single lawmaker supported the no-government movement. Their arguments were convincing – they had barely got a chance to govern; had just won an election, have made promises and got no time to deliver and have nothing in hands to hawk if the situation forces a new election. Ms Mufti’s insistence that she will take the party forward single-handedly, was the response to these arguments.

Seemingly, Ms Mufti had personal issues in not rushing to seize the throne. Her entire politics surrounded around her father, under whose shadow she created the party. Coming out of the alliance would essentially mean she deliberately proved her father wrong. But pressures have started building up. Now her select workers on whom she depends to understand the mood on ground zero are supportive of her lawmakers – not another election.

Silently, at the same time, the system was at work. Indications suggest that security set up had an option in case alliance fell flat. NC is not interested in replacing PDP though options were discussed and feelers sent around. For a long time, a section in J&K’s security set up had been suggestive of an all party government. If PDP avoids availing the opportunity, chances of that theory becoming a reality is not remote. Sources suggest that an all party government may not have the support of parties but it could definitely be representative on basis of its composition. It is, however, not known if the planners of the scheme are aware of the stiff anti-defection laws currently in vogue in the state.

This plan, sources said, had led to a sort of tension within the right-wingers as well. While one section of the RSS continues to be not supportive of the alliance, another section, believed to be stronger and bigger, is suggestive of the continuation of the alliance and not permitting the ‘deep state’ to resort to any experimentation in the sensitive state.

Insiders suggest that situation started changing gradually after governor N N Vohra submitted his report and later followed it up by briefing various key central leaders.

“There is some positivity around now,” a key PDP leader said. “At the state level certain decisions that Mufti had taken as Chief Minister are being followed up and we expect certain announcements in coming days but that all depends how the meeting (between Ms Mufti and Ram Madhav) takes place.” The meeting was supposed to have taken place on February 16, but Madhav did not fly to Srinagar. There were two issues that prevented his flight to Srinagar – first the Assam polls and second his efforts to coordinate with various sections in the central government to manage the “CBMs” that Ms Mufti has been talking about. These “CBMs”, PDP insiders suggest are certain parts of the Agenda of Alliance and nothing new.

“It is a matter of creating an atmosphere of trust,” another key leader said. “We want the BJP should see leader of the alliance in the state as its own member and not use courts to embarrass the government.”

The government formation may take some more time. Once it takes oath of office it may be more resourceful than its earlier stint. But it will still lack one thing – the trust that it eroded in the forced halt for succession. And politically, the brief halt can not devour the “unpopularity” of the decision. PDP has understood the devil and deep sea situation it has landed in and seemingly has decided against ending up a martyr!

Note: The copy was slightly modified for the web edition.

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