by Shams Irfan
SRINAGAR: At around 2 PM, while most of the PDP ministers were sitting in their offices at Srinagar’s Civil Secretariat, the seat of power from where PDP-BJP alliance functioned, a thousand miles away in Delhi, Ram Madhav, the BJP’s National General Secretary, addressed a press conference to announce end of alliance.
“It has become untenable for the BJP to continue in this government,” Madhav told reporters. “After taking stock of the situation in the state, and taking inputs from MHA and other agencies the central government and the BJP is of the view that we should leave the government.”
Immediately after the announcement, the bemused PDP ministers, MLAs, MLCs, party functionaries and workers started dialling each other for confirmation.
After the confirmation, ministers came literally running out of their offices in the civil secretariat and rushed towards Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti’s official residence at Gupkar in Srinagar. They came out almost at the same time creating a sort of traffic jam near the Jehangir Crossing.
“Ina Lillahi Wa Inna Lillahi Rajioon,” Naeem Akhter, senior PDP minister and spokesman of the government said. “I will be going to the Chief Minister and confirming it to you.”
Within an hour of Madhav’s announcement, Mehbooba and her entire cabinet had submitted their resignation to Governor NN Vohra. “We came to know through television about the pull-out,” said a visibly upset young PDP party-leader. “It was a complete surprise and that is what politics and power is all about.”
As the news of BJP pulling the collation rug from beneath PDP’s feet spread, social media websites like Facebook and Twitter began to react. The first one to react as usual was former Chief Minister and National Conference President Omar Abdullah who philosophically wrote on his twitter: “And so it has come to pass…”
At 4:15 PM, after Abdullah told Governor NC doesn’t have numbers to form a government, he rushed to his Gupkar residence, where over two hundred journalists waited for him to address a press conference.
Flanked by party loyalists like Ali Mohammad Sagar and Agha Syed Ruhullah, Abdullah told journalists “We are not celebrating this. No party will ever celebrate the imposition of Governor’s rule”.
When asked what he thinks of pull-out Abdullah said, “Only BJP can answer the question what compelled them to sever ties. Not shocked by their decision but the timing has taken me by surprise. We have seen the situation deteriorating in the state. Whether the PDP is embarrassed or not, I cannot say, I don’t expect the BJP to have taken us into confidence. Least they could have done was taking the PDP into confidence.”
Taking a calculated dig at Mehbooba, Abdullah said: “I can’t speculate over what happened. Can’t speculate whether Sujaat Bhukari’s killing was the final straw that broke the camel’s back. Can’t speculate whether it was Ramzan ceasefire. She (Mehbooba) chose to be dismissed rather than leave with dignity intact.”
As Abdullah concluded his press-conference by ruling out any offer of support to PDP, half-a-mile down the road, at Mehbooba’s fortified residence, the scene was both chaotic and mournful. The journalists covering Abdullah press-conference quickly rushed to Mehbooba’s residence.
Surrounded by her entire team Mehbooba tried to put a brave face forward while facing the cameras. She retained her composure. However, to everyone’s surprise, as Mehbooba spoke, she started to chart out her government’s “achievements” rather than blaming BJP for what most of PDP men consider betrayal. “It was an unpopular decision (to form a government with BJP) but we did the alliance for the larger good of the people,” she said calculatedly, without trying to sound blaming.
Mehbooba reminded that the basic tenets of the alliance were confidence-building measures. “We have taken many measures to improve the situation in the state. Got Centre to announce a unilateral ceasefire,” said told media.
In less than fifteen minutes press conference Mehbooba thoughtfully reflected on her party’s achievements in last three years of collation with BJP.
“We tried to keep Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh united. PDP activists had to face a lot of troubles but they firmly stood by us. This alliance had a bigger motive, unilateral ceasefire, PM’s visit to Pakistan, withdrawal of cases against 11,000 youth.”
Then like a parting warning shot Mehbooba said: Muscular policy will not work in J&K, can’t treat it as enemy territory. I am not shocked (at BJP’s decision). This alliance wasn’t formed for power. Thought alliance would benefit J&K. She said her government defended Article 370 and put up a strong defence against the abrogation of Article 35 (A).
A young PDP leader close to Mehbooba, who looked visibly shattered, in a rather casual tone sort of warned journalists that the bad times are ahead now. “It was us (PDP) who worked as a buffer between Delhi and the people. You will see how fast things will change on the ground now from tomorrow,” he said. “We wanted an extension of a ceasefire but they (BJP) wanted to give free hand to the army. We wanted dialogue with Pakistan but they refused. With PDP out, it is an open turf now.”
But the way Madhav blamed PDP for “failing to improve the security situation in the Kashmir Valley” and referred to Rising Kashmir Editor Shujaat Bhukhari’s recent broad daylight killing in Press Colony Srinagar to make his point, leaves many questions unanswered. “After the killing of (Shujaat) Bukhari in broad daylight in Srinagar, there was no question of suspending anti-terror operations. The state must be put under Governor’s rule. Once the situation is restored to normalcy, then we can take the political process forward,” said Madhav.
While blaming PDP for the present situation in Kashmir, Madhav said, “Terrorism, violence and radicalism have risen and the fundamental rights of citizens, including the right to life and free speech, are in danger”.
The month-long ceasefire that was announced by Home Minister Rajnath Singh, ended with the culmination of Ramazan on June 15, 2018. Last time it was Hizb-ul-Mujahideen who announced a unilateral ceasefire on July 24, 2000, in Srinagar, in anticipation of talks with Government of Indian. However, after the first round of talks, the ceasefire was withdrawn by Hizb on August 8, the same year.
However, the recent Ramazan ceasefire, which Delhi said they will not extend, witnessed 20 grenade attacks, 50 militant strikes and 41 killings. Those killed include nine security men, six civilians and twenty-four militants. Out of them, 22 militants were killed on LoC while trying to cross over. “
Entire Kashmir has slipped into gloom after Bukhari’s killing on June 14, 2018, two days before the Eid festival. But as the news of Mehbooba led collation government reached Kashmir, there were a mix of emotions on the display. Maybe Abdullah’s latest tweets sum up the mood: “She was cutting ribbons while the BJP was cutting her legs out from under her. How I wish she had left with her head held high & her dignity intact! She was J&K’s CM, not of the BJPDP.”
Various political parties reacted to the development. “BJP may give ample reasons to justify its decision but the fact is that from New Delhi to Srinagar both governments have failed to suppress the people’s movement and the end of the collation is a victory of all those forces especially Kashmiris who want the J&K dispute to be resolved once for all,” independent lawmaker Engineer Rasheed said. “What Delhi did to late Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, it did same with Mehbooba Mufti and her father. The disastrous end of the alliance has proven that J&K issue is not about packages or a problem of a section of society or a region but a problem existing since 1947 and unless Kashmiris are not given the right to self-determination stability and peace will always be like a distant dream.” BJP has made PDP a scapegoat for more than one reasons, he added.
Communist lawmaker Mohammad Yousuf Tarigami said that the leadership of both the PDP and the BJP are answerable before the people of Jammu and Kashmir for their unprincipled alliance which ended today but not before sending the state in deep crisis.
“Till yesterday the leadership of PDP and BJP were praising each other like anything. What happened all of the sudden people want to know? Now different tones are coming from each of them. This is an attempt by BJP to evade responsibilities. People in the state and the country want to know what they (BJP) have done in four years in Center and more than three years in J&K to address the issue of deepening crisis and uncertainty in J&K,” said Tarigami in a statement.
Tarigami believes the BJP pullout at this particular moment has the “potential of creating greater political instability”.
Earlier, his leader Sitaram Yechury posted various comments on the development on his twitter. “BJP’s decision to withdraw from the coalition government with the PDP, at this point in time, has the potential of creating greater political instability in the state. It signifies the total political failure of the BJP’s approach in Jammu & Kashmir,” Yechury wrote. “The situation in Jammu & Kashmir has deteriorated completely in the past three years due to naked opportunism and greed for power displayed by the BJP. As a party in power at the centre and state, the BJP cannot avoid responsibility for its actions.” In another one, he added: “The people of Jammu & Kashmir have suffered heavily due to the confused and ham-handed policies at centre and state. It has brought the situation to a sorry pass, which was unimaginable three years ago. No Spin and PR by Modi can alter this fact.”
Congress president Rahul Gandhi said the “opportunistic BJP-PDP alliance” set fire to Jammu and Kashmir, killing many innocent civilians and soldiers, and that the damage would continue even if the state was put under central rule.
“The opportunistic BJP-PDP alliance set fire to J&K, killing many innocent people including our brave soldiers. It cost India strategically & destroyed years of UPA’s hard work. The damage will continue under President’s rule. Incompetence, arrogance & hatred always fails,” Gandhi wrote on Twitter.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal wrote on Twitter: “After ruining it, BJP pulls out of Kashmir. Didn’t BJP tell us that demonetisation had broken the back of terrorism in Kashmir? Then what happened?”