The inevitable has finally happened in Jammu and Kashmir. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) coalition government collapsed on Tuesday, June 19.But it has happened at a time when the border with Pakistan in the state is witnessing a continued bloodbath and the Kashmir Valley is caught in the vortex of civil unrest and a surge in local militancy.
While both the parties fought elections against each other in 2014, the“North Pole-South Pole” alliance as termed by the former Chief Minister and chief patron of PDP, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, wasformed on the “agenda of alliance” after BJP got 25 seats from Jammu region, and the PDP emerged as the single largest party with 28 seats in the 87-member state Assembly.
As apprehended, the alliance remained unpopular in both the regions as none of the agreements in the “agenda of alliance”could turn to reality during the past over three years. The PDP had been facing backlash in Kashmir Valley for allegedly betraying the mandate of Kashmiri voters whereas the BJP was facing the heat in Jammu region for going soft on separatism and playing subservient to the Kashmir based party after smelling power.
Kathua issue, a huge bone of contention
On that account, the BJP has outplayed PDP by pulling out of the government, suddenly and dramatically. PDP clearly has been taken unawares and the BJP’s decision has caused huge embarrassment to the Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti and her party.
However, well before parting its ways, the BJP had already started working on retrieving its lost political grounds in Jammu region. It had started using the Kathua rape and murder tragedy to revive its dwindling political fortunes in the region.BJP MLA ChoudharyLal Singh who was asked to resign as state’s forest minister along with industrial minister Chander Prakash Ganga after their presence at a rally held by Hindu EktaManchin support of the rape and murder accused evoked countrywide condemnation.
Since his resignation from the state’s cabinet, Singh has been holding rallies in Jammu region. Besides amplifying the demand for a CBI probe into the case, he hasalso been talking about the issues of “regional discrimination” with Jammu. After the recent cabinet reshuffle in the state’s coalition government, BJP immediately gave a young and angry face to its state’s unit by appointing its controversial MLA Ravinder Raina as party’s state president.
In fact, the rape and murder of the eight-year-old nomadic Bakarwal girl proved a major flashpoint between the two warring coalition partners and has had the state on the edge since it was reported by the media. The polarisation between the two regions of the state is similar to the situation prevailing during 2008 Amarnath agitation—which saw Jammu and Kashmir deeply divided on religious and regional lines.
But BJP’s calculative move is seen as an attempt to hide the complete failure of Modi government’s muscular Kashmir policy. The “bullet for bullet” and “bullet for stone” approach has proven counterproductive. More and more local youths have been joining militancy than those getting killed. The fear among youths protesting on the streets is now completely missing. More and more civilians are seen thronging the encounter sites to express solidarity with the local militants. Massive gatherings are being witnessed in the funerals of the local militants.
And if the data compiled by the South Asian Terrorism Portal, run by New Delhi based Institute for Conflict Management, is something to go by, last four years have seen the worst bloodshed in Kashmir Valley in terms of killings of the civilians, security personals and of course the militants.
Pertinently, the Election Commission had to cancel AnantnagLok Sabha seat by-elections last year after large scale violence and embarrassing five percent voter turn-out in Srinagar Parliamentary by polls. Similarly, the government had to repeatedly cancel Panchayat elections due to spike in violence.
PDP, BJP not on same page
Even though the party’s national general secretary Ram Madhav has blamed PDP for everything that is wrong with the state today, PDP had been repeatedly insisting on reconciliation and dialogue with the Pakistan and separatists but without any success. “Jammu and Kashmir is not an enemy territory. Muscular policy can’t work here, reconciliation is the key,” PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti told reporters after her meeting with Governor NN Vohra.
Ironically, Madhav also invoked the murder of senior journalist ShujaatBukhari, saying that “even a week after his killing, we are nowhere near catching the culprits.” But many were quick to point out that PM hasn’t said a word about the murder of Rising Kashmir editor so far.
BJP free to scale up ‘nationalist’ agenda
If the BJP sources are to be believed, the decision was taken by the party with a clear objective of strengthening party’s image in Jammu and Ladakh, which remain its core constituencies, besides rest of the country ahead of 2019 Lok Sabha elections. The BJP, experts feel, has set the tone for party’s election campaign.
It’s is now free to pursue its “nationalist” agenda to boost its “Pakistan-Kashmir-Muslim” and confrontational politics within the state. In fact, while Syama Prasad Mukherjee “Balidan Divas” is celebrated on 23 June 23 every year, this year,in line with BJP’s Hindutva, a big rally will be organised which will be addressed by party national president Amit Shah,according to Ravinder Raina, J&K BJP chief.
It can focus on the issues like revocation of Articles 370 and 35 A, besides stepping up its pro Army and anti-separatist rhetoric and continue with the Operation All Out—a joint offensive launched by the security forces in 2017 to wipe out militancy. The straplines and headlines in media and social media like BJP outsmarts PDP, BJP disowns PDP, BJP frees from the shackles also indicate how BJP is going to make a political capital out of its break-up with the PDP.
Governor’s rule and beyond
Even though Mehbooba has ruled out the possibilities of forging a new political alliance, both the principal parties in the state, National Conference and Congress have also refused to enter into alliance with the PDP. The BJP in its press conference on Tuesday also preferred Governor’s rule.
While the Governor’s rule has now been imposed, former CM Omar Abdullah has demanded that the J&K state assembly should be dissolved immediately and fresh elections should take place as soon as appropriate. Reacting to former deputy CM in coalition government, Kavinder Gupta’s statement, who told ANI that “I don’t think a new government will be formed anytime soon. Uncertainties are there, but we are working on something & people will get to know about it,” Omar wrote on Twitter: “’We are working on something’? The only ‘something’ would be to break other parties and make up the numbers to form a BJP Govt. Has the former DCM inadvertently spilled the beans?”
As the Governor’s rule is imposed on the state for the eighth time in the last 40 years, it seems fresh assembly elections in the state could be announced later this year, along with polls in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Mizoram.
While NN Vohra—whose term as state’s Governor comes to a close on June 25—will possibly get an extension till the AmarnathYatra, speculations are rife that Modi government could replace him with an Army veteran to reinvigorate “Doval doctrine” which has already backfired on all frontsof the trouble-torn state. There are genuine apprehensions that Pakistani deep state could use the current situation for furthering its own designs in Jammu and Kashmir.