As the BJPDP alliance becomes history, the lawmakers from PDP, NC and independents enumerate the incidents and landmarks of the last three year’s rule which they would take to the electorate, reports Shams Irfan
Once buzzing with tinted glassed cars flashing beacon lights and special number plates, Gupkar, Kashmir’s power street, is mournful.
Footfalls to the Fairview, a plush bungalow nestled in Zabarwan hills which till recently housed Papa 2, a notorious torture centre, wherefrom Mehbooba Mufti ruled since April 2016, have gone abysmally down. Those who come to visit now come in silence and leave even more discretely after meeting her. Most of them are party loyalists who currently putting up in Srinagar for security concerns. For them the “fall” has been both insulting and disgraceful.
“The way they (BJP) did it has hurt everyone in the party,” said Sajad, a long time PDP loyalist from Islamabad district.
Sajad was among hundreds of party loyalists who were vocal against Mufti’s decision of allying with BJP. But their dissenting voices died down as soon as Mufti was sworn in as Chief Minister in 2014. “We sought votes to save Kashmir from communal forces,” said Sajad sadly. “But once we won, we formed the government with the same party. Now tell me how will people forgive us?”
Sajad was among a few loyalists who kept pressing senior party members till recently to rethink their alliance with the BJP. “But nobody listened to us,” said Sajad. “It is difficult to let go power.”
Now with PDP out of power and fully disgraced, Sajad regrets only one thing: “I wish we (PDP) would have quit alliance first. It would have salvaged our image to some extent. We are now literally caught between the devil and the deep sea.”
The realisation of catch-22 position seems to be ingrained in almost all PDP workers, especially after Burhan Wani’s killing in July 2016.
“By joining hands with BJP we lost our face in Kashmir. But there was a solace that we can regain people’s trust by good governance,” said Arshad, a senior party worker from Shopian. “However, because of BJP’s constant meddling, and their anti-Kashmir stance, we couldn’t govern the way we should have.”
But not all PDP men think on the same lines as Arshad and Sajad. There are a few who see PDP-BJP’s three year rule as “golden era” of governance for Kashmir despite an unceremonious break-up.
Ask any PDP lawmaker about their report-card since 2014, and they quickly mention, AIIMS, cluster universities for Srinagar and Jammu, up gradation of sports infrastructure in all three regions, network of new roads and upcoming highways, fly over, waving of stamp duty for women etc. “The result is for everyone to see. What we did in last three years was not done in thirty by National Conference,” said Ajaz Mir, a lawmaker from Wachi constituency. “There are a number of developmental projects going on in my constituency. They will take a few more years to complete.”
Mir is optimistic that in coming elections people will shun prejudice against PDP and vote them to power again. “What BJP did proved our point that we were working for Kashmiris,” said Mir.
For Waheed Ur Rehman Parra, Youth President and spokesperson PDP, last three-and-half-years of BJPDP rule were satisfactory as far as development is concerned.
“He (Mufti) wanted to give representation to all three regions i.e. Kashmir, Jammu and Ladakh. That is why he joined hands with the BJP,” said Parra. “We did a lot to improve the living standard in these three regions.” Parra is optimistic that people will see through the propaganda as their report-card is full of achievements!
Then without a pause Parra counts the major ones: amnesty to over 11,000 first time stone-pelters, initiation of dialogue with Pakistan, protection of Kashmir’s special status etc. “Dialogue is a two way process. We did our part successfully by getting an interlocutor appointed. Now it was Pakistan’s turn to reciprocate. But unfortunately they didn’t,” he insisted.
For Parra, the biggest step in the peace process was Modi’s unscheduled visit to Lahore in December 2015. “It could have been the ultimate ice-breaker but Pakistan didn’t respond.”
However, Mohammad Yousuf Tarigami, a CPI (M) lawmaker who represents Kulgam constituency, terms the alliance as “huge disappointment”. “If you go through Agenda of Alliance, you will see what they promised people and what they actually delivered,” said Tarigami. “They promised self-rule and dialogue. But they ended mute spectators while Kashmir slipped into chaos.”
Tarigami believes PDP rode to power not because they promised to improve roads, electricity and infrastructure. “They were voted to power because they promised to keep BJP out. Second they promised talks with Hurriyat and Pakistan,” said Tarigami. “But they failed on all fronts.”
Tarigami recalls how Mehbooba used to corner Omar (Abdullah) in the state assembly, when in opposition, over use of pellet guns. “But once in power, she broke all the previous records. How can we forget what they (PDP) did in 2016,” asks Tarigami.
On governance front Tarigami feels PDP-BJP alliance broke all records of corruption as back-door appointments were institutionalised. “Mufti Sayeed used to say we need to build institutions, but it is for everyone to see how they demolished every single institution built over the years,” blames Targami. He sees implementation of Goods and Sales Tax (GST) as PDPs biggest “betrayal”.
“After PDP-BJP alliance implemented GST, Finance Minster of India said on record said that Shyama Prasad Mukherjee’s dream has come true today. Kashmir is now financially integrated with India,” said Tarigami. “How can people forgive or forget them. They even helped Mukherjee realise his Kashmir dream!”
Independent lawmaker Engineer Rasheed, who represents Langate in north Kashmir, blames PDP for adding sense of defeat to conflict ridden Kashmiris. “They gave free hand to the BJP, who till now failed to make inroads into Kashmir,” said Er Rasheed.
In last three and half-years of BJPDP rule, the entire bureaucracy was shaken and remodelled to appease the right wing party, blames Rasheed. “Majority Muslim community is almost invisible from bureaucracy now. It has been replaced by non-natives completely,” he said. The imbalance in bureaucracy and police saw Jammu Muslims getting cornered. “Thanks to PDP’s submission Gua Rakshaks (Cow Vigilantes) are now ruling the state with impunity,” said Rasheed, insisting the Gua Rakshaks even resorted to killings.
For Rasheed the tone and nature of alliance was set when BJP snubbed Mufti for thanking Pakistan for smooth conduct of state assembly elections in 2014. “The second snub was when Mufti was made to revoke an order asking Constitutional Authorities to maintain the sanctity of the State Flag, at all costs,” said Rasheed.
The said order was issued on March 13, 2015 by Commissioner Secretary to Government, General Administration Department (GAD), directing all the Constitutional Authorities to maintain the sanctity of the State Flag, at all costs, as is being done in respect of the tricolour. It also directed that the Flag shall always be hoisted jointly on the buildings housing Constitutional Institutions and shall be used on the official cars of Constitutional Authorities. The order was revoked the very next day on March 14, after both Congress and BJP opposed. “They (PDP) should have pulled out of the alliance there and then,” feels Rasheed. “But they chose to wait till they were disgraced and shown the door.”
Blessing in Disguise
On June 19, 2018, when Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti was busy in her office at Srinagar’s Civil Secretariat, BJP’s National General Secretary Ram Madhav addressed a dramatic press conference to announce end of PDP-BJP alliance.
Within no time Mehbooba was on her way to Governor’s residence to tender her resignation. In south Kashmir, the erstwhile stronghold of PDP, the news of pull-out was received with both jubilations and silence. “Those who had suffered under BJPDP rule celebrated their fall,” said Muneer, a businessman who voted for PDP in 2014. “But for party loyalists the pull-out meant lot more than just fall of Mehbooba. It meant losing their shields in volatile south.”
For Shahid, a district level party worker from Islamabad, the news of the fall was disturbing yet blessing in disguise. “I am sure the focus of militants will now shift away from us,” feels Shahid. “We are no longer in power. I hope we can now move around freely in our areas.”
The same feelings are shared by lawmaker Mir, who is yet to visit Wachi, his constituency in south Kashmir. “The fall has given sort of breathing space to our ground level workers as they were under constant threat,” said Mir. “We can now concentrate on building our base as there was disconnect because of security concerns.”
Mir too has a list of PDP’s achievements which he is keen to share with his voters once he visits them. “We have improved infrastructure in Kashmir, which was missing since last few decades,” he claims.
Mir’s party colleague Parra points out network of upcoming highways in south and north Kashmir, as PDP’s take-away achievements. But on the ground this part of the development is seen differently. “These highways which PDP talks about are strategic roads made exclusively keeping in mind army’s movement in times of war,” said Adil, a Shopian based activist who is campaigning against highway 444 connecting Qazigund with Bemina in Srinagar, a 100 kilometre stretch which will consume thousands of kanals of apple orchards. “In fact PDP facilitated loot and plunder of our orchards. They didn’t even make slight resistance against proposed highway to save our livelihood.”
A part of highway 444 passes through Tarigami’s constituency, which he says was proposed and approved by former UPA government and not BJP or PDP as propagated. “I have visited almost entire stretch from where this highway passes. This project has nothing to do with PDP. They just want to take credit,” said Tarigami.
For Tarigami, the most defining legacy of BJPDP alliance is summed up by just one image: a voter (Farooq Ahamd Dar) tied to the bonnet of an army jeep and paraded through villages. “I had never seen anything more gruesome in my life. Have you?” he asks. “Farooq’s image will haunt them forever.”
Former lawmaker Nasir Aslam Wani, who represented Rajbagh constituency in state assembly during Omar Abdullah’s government, believes PDP’s biggest betrayal is erosion of Article 370, implementation of GST and SARFAESI Act.
“People should ask them (PDP) who and why they pushed an entire generation towards graveyards. Aren’t they the same youngsters who were our election agents who once carried our political banners proudly,” asks Tarigami.
Wani asks: “How would they (PDP) face people after showering young kids with pellets and bullets.”