Partners In Crime

Separated allies of doomed BJPDP coalition have resorted to a new wave of allegations and counter-accusations. But people are unlikely to fall prey to their renewed engagement by pointing fingers at each other after enjoying the benefits for more than three years, reports Tasavur Mushtaq

CM Mehbooba Mufti with PM Modi at a public rally in Katra on April 19, 2016.
File image of Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti with Prime Minister Narendra Modi

The Modi wave that dominated India’s general elections in 2014 summer put half of Jammu and Kashmir’s six-Lok Sabha seats in BJP’s kitty. The meticulous social engineering led to the humiliating defeat of Congress’s big shot Ghulam Nabi Azad at his home turf.

Encouraged, the right-wing party, intelligently planned improving its tally in the state assembly elections that fall. With an aggressive Kashmir agenda and a receptive Hindu vote bank in Jammu, the party invested massively to push its ‘Mission 44 +’: a plan to get 44 berths in the 87-member House of India’s only Muslim-majority state. Big hoardings featuring Narendra Modi with his Sab ka Vikas slogans dotted Kashmir’s market squares and major roads. In order to show that he means business, Modi flew to Jammu and campaigned for the party.

This scared Kashmir. Political parties, NC and PDP forgot their bigger ideas and started campaigning on just one issue: “stop Modi wave” from getting into Kashmir.

Ahead of elections, in November 2014, BJP released a ‘vision’ document. Without naming it as a ‘election manifesto’, the party sought votes for: “just and honourable” re-settlement of Kashmiri Pandits, aiming to make Jammu and Kashmir a peaceful and progressive state through “holistic” development, reserving “three seats in the state assembly for displaced Kashmiris” and  (from 46 assembly seats for Kashmir) and reserving “five seats for refugees from Pakistan Occupied Kashmir from the 24 seats kept vacant for the PoK”, and “33 per cent reservation to women” in the legislative assembly and legislative council.

It avoided mentioning the scrapping of Article 370, an issue it usually sells in the mainland India. Modi flew to the state four times and on

December 8, 2014, in Srinagar’s Sher-e-Kashmir Stadium, his speech was tactical. Skipped Article 370, Pakistan and militancy, Modi said: “I, as your Pradhan Sevak, have come to share your pain and anguish. Your sorrow is my sorrow; your pain is my pain; your problem is my problem…”

Modi hit hard the local parties, the NC and the PDP and accused them of plundering the resources. “BJP will end Baap-Beta and Baap-Beti Sarkaar in J&K,” he insisted. The party gave a mandate to three Kashmiri Muslim women.

But as the verdict came, it was hung.

BJP swept the Jammu, while PDP managed to take Kashmir, prominently.  The two ideologically opposite parties held the cards across the tunnel.

The calculations started. The offers were made. The chemistry were evaluated and in came the man from BJP, erstwhile RSS parcharak, Ram Madhav to sit with Mufti Sayeed’s close confidante Dr Haseeb Drabu. To a surprise and a shock, the two shook hands.  The spade work for a coalition actually started on the decimation of the mandate.

As real politics took over, the two men took two full months to seal the deal after discarding half a dozen drafts on the common minimum programme. When the Agenda of Alliance (AoA) was printed, Mufti Sayeed said it was the ‘second instrument of accession.’ The two parties termed AoA as “guiding” framework for the governance.

The AoA gave special thrust on “political initiatives” to seek “support and strengthen the approach and initiatives taken by the government to create a reconciliatory environment and build stakes for all in the peace and development within the sub-continent.” The right-wing party agreed that “confidence-building measures such as enhancing people to people contact on both sides of the LoC encouraging civil society exchanges, taking travel, commerce, trade and business across the LoC to the next level and opening new routes across all three regions to enhancing connectivity”.

Dr Nirmal Singh presiding over a meeting to review the agenda of alliance

Recognising the resistance leadership as “Hurriyat Conference,” the AoA mentioned “the earlier NDA government led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee had initiated a dialogue process with all political groups, including the Hurriyat Conference, in the spirit of ‘Insaaniyat, Kashmiriyat aur Jamhooriyat’ and ‘the coalition government will facilitate and help initiate a sustained and meaningful dialogue with all internal stakeholders, which will include all political groups irrespective of their ideological views and predilections. This dialogue will seek to build a broad-based consensus on the resolution of all outstanding issues of J&K.”

While talking about the “security matters”, it was agreed upon that “the coalition government will examine the need for de-notifying ‘disturbed areas’. This, as a consequence, would enable Delhi to take a final view on the continuation of AFSPA in these areas and discuss the modalities.”

AOA’s social and humanitarian initiatives envisaged “protection and fostering ethnic and religious diversity by ensuring the return of Kashmiri Pandits with dignity based on their rights as state subjects and reintegrating as well as absorbing them in the Kashmiri milieu.” It called for making J&K “fiscally autonomous state” with emphasis on exploring ways for “transfer of Dulhasti and Uri hydropower projects to J&K as suggested by the Rangarajan Committee Report and the Round Table reports.”

There was a specific plan for making Jammu an “independent tourist” destination and “rebuild Shehr-e-Khas in Srinagar as a heritage destination by dovetailing craft heritage and tourism and make Dal lake a world heritage site.”

The allies decided to work in next six years and formed a steering committee comprising of the President of PDP and BJP, and four party members each for overseeing AoA implementation.

Mufti Sayeed finally took over as the Chief Minister on March 1, 2015, with 24 member council and Modi flew to pat the ally. The understanding included a clear division of portfolios. PDP had more in its kitty than its ally.

But the coalition’s takeoff was bumpy and rough till the demise of Mufti in January 2016.  His political heir, Mehbooba, was either unwilling to replace her father or too frightened of power. Amid threats of a reported party decimation, she took months and finally the first women Chief Minister took over in April 2016.

Two years later, in 2018, after the Kathua rape and murder of eight-year-old Bakerwal girl shocked the world, BJP leaders were caught in garnering support for the rapists. A humiliated BJP almost sacked Lal Singh and C P Ganga, two senior ministers. Soon, a reshuffle was affected. RSS man Kavinder Gupta replaced rightwing historian Nirmal Singh as Deputy Chief Minister. Four new faces came to the council: Sat Paul Sharma (the State BJP president and MLA Jammu West), Rajiv Jasrotia (MLA Kathua), Dr Devender Manyal (MLA Samba) and Shakti Parihar (MLA Doda). Nirmal Singh became the Assembly Speaker.

In less than two months of its change and reiteration of completion of the full term, Ram Madhav, the man who stitched the alliance told media in Delhi that “it is over.” He accused PDP for its failure in better governance and the deteriorating security situation.

But why is BJP playing a victim card, three years later? During last three years, all BJP leaders insisted the BJPDP government was on the “right track.”

Deviating from its stated position on Article 370 and Section 35 A, BJP’s senior leader, and home minister Rajnath Singh coined five C’s to deal with Kashmir: compassion, communication, coexistence, confidence building and consistency. In his last visit, he was happy that Rs 80,000 crore special package is being spent.

In May 2018, barely a month before the BJP pull-out, Modi insisted: “all problems, all differences have only one solution … development, development and development.”

Barring the so-called ceasefire for the Muslim month of fasting, BJP barely accommodated its ally. Barring one commissioner secretary who is now retired, BJP ministers did not allow any Muslim officer to head their department. Even in the cabinet, BJP ministers put up a ruckus against sending Muslim officers to their areas, thus creating a new precedence.

“When the two marry and produce children, they belong to both even if they separate,” commented a doctor, Shakeel. “BJP started intelligently but now seems to be running short of ideas as face-savers.”

Even officers insist the discrimination is just a bogey. “Not a penny is more here or there,” one officer said. “Why do not you create a developmental index of the two regions?”

Accusations are around. Amit Shah came to Jammu and threw around allegations of incompetence, corruption and discrimination. Mehbooba Mufti’s “minor” team took to Twitter and reacted to the allegations. But the situation was foreseen and commented by Tasduq Mufti already.

“Today the threat is that while we are in control, we are no longer trusted,” the ace cinematographer Tasaduq Mufti said as early as April 13. “We were supposed to be partners in the rebuilding of this place but, sad to admit this, due to the non-fulfilling of commitments, we have ended up being partners in a crime that an entire generation of Kashmiris might have to pay with their blood”.

“Collective anxiety, group apprehensions, and individual fear combine to make the living conditions in the valley extremely toxic,” Haseeb Drabu, the AoA co-author, who was sacked unceremoniously almost a quarter back, wrote on Twitter. “Political uncertainty not a concern right now. In fact seems to have provided some sort of a relief to everyone; each for his / her own reason!”


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