Mehbooba Mufti’s plight a wake up call for NDA allies

The fate of Mehbooba Mufti shows that Modi and Shah are very clear this is a BJP and not NDA government. If some hangers-on want to enjoy the perks of office, they may do so only as yes-men of Modi

Photo by Nitin Kanotra/Hindustan Times via Getty Images
Photo by Nitin Kanotra/Hindustan Times via Getty Images
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Faraz Ahmad

The Bharatiya Janata Party’s decision to pull out from Mehbooba Mufti’s People’s Democratic Party-led over three-year coalition government in the sensitive border state of Jammu and Kashmir is the latest instance of the BJP using and throwing an alliance partner when the partner’s utility ends. This is now the scheme of things in the NDA under Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his factotum Amit Shah.

It is obvious that the move is aimed at restoring BJP’s image as a muscular party confronting the restless people of Kashmir valley with more guns and more armed men to crush down any dissent, not simply armed militants, which they believe may restore their credibility with the communally-poisoned minds of Hindutva enthusiasts much beyond the borders of Jammu.

However, often in politics two plus two does not necessarily add up to four. After all, Modi has done so many somersaults in regard to Kashmir and Pakistan that bhakts apart, it may be difficult for any objective watcher to believe in Modi anymore. But then Modi, who has reneged on almost all the lofty claims he made in the campaign for the 2014 general elections, has hardly any option left but to revert to the tried-and-tested Sangh formula to attempt further Hindu-Muslim polarisation. For long, political observers have been expecting that as we get closer each day to the 2019 elections Modi and Shah’s language would become increasingly more strident, condemning his opponents as soft on “anti national forces while projecting himself as the ‘chappan inch nu chhati’. Modi has so far been able to persuade a large section of India’s voters that he is the only He-Man capable of taking on the “enemies” of Bharat Mata. However, this has given him diminishing returns with each successive election or bypolls. So it is too early to predict at this stage whether Modi will necessarily succeed in regaining the confidence of the people of Jammu.

But the issue here is not so much Modi, for his gimmicks are too predictable by now. What about Mehbooba Mufti and even her late father Mufti Mohammad Sayeed? Mehbooba built her political career on gaining sympathy of the youth of the valley, who were feeling victimised and targeted by the central military and para-military forces. She effectively articulated their anger and frustration and thus became a popular leader for the people of Kashmir, not just the youth. Her late father Mufti sahib too mainly encashed her popularity to become J&K chief minister twice, once with Congress and then the unthinkable alliance with the communally vituperative BJP under Narendra Modi. But Mufti was a seasoned politician and as long as he was alive. he could successfully do some tight-rope walking. But sadly he died early and it fell upon Mehbooba to lead from the front, taking on the responsibility of administering a strife-torn state in alliance with the BJP, which swept the Jammu region in the Assembly polls on communally charged slogans.

A stage had to come when these two diametrically opposite ideological parties would part company and go their respective ways. Mehbooba knew this as well as BJP pointsman in Kashmir, Ram Madhav and Modi himself. But that Mehbooba sat back and waited for Modi to pull the rug from under her feet, just shows Mehooba’s naivete and inexperience. But then she had burned her bridges the day she decided to don the mantle of chief minister with support from Modi. The youth of Kashmir considered Mehbooba’s act as a betrayal of their struggle and snatching the initiative from the BJP might not have helped her much in restoring her credibility with the people of the valley.

Once Modi has crossed the 2019 hump and returned to power, if at all, and gets his majority in the Rajya Sabha as well, he could very well shake off all allies. This treatment of Mehooba and earlier of Naidu should serve as a wake-up call to the likes of Paswans and Athawales of this Government

The signal from Modi and Shah to allies is very clear: We don’t need you. You need us

The issue here is the loss of credibility of a regional party which chose to align with Modi to encash on his rising popularity in 2013-14 and trust his word for all the tall promises he made. Look at Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu, a dynamic leader. The people of Andhra, upset and annoyed with the Congress for bifurcating their state and carving out Telangana, put all their trust in the alliance of BJP with Naidu’s Telugu Desam Party, in the hope of being well compensated for their perceived loss. But once in government, Modi just threw a few crumbs of making two TDP MPs ministers. In the good old days of the Atal Bihari Vajpayee era, Naidu regularly had his way. Not this time.

The point is, be it Naidu or Mehbooba or for that matter Ram Vilas Paswan or Ramdas Athawale, all have been snubbed by Modi. It shows that Modi and Shah are very clear in their mind that this is a BJP government. If some hangers-on want to enjoy the perks of office they may do so, but only as yes-men of Modi. The signal is very clear: We don’t need you. You need us. So expect nothing, ask nothing, crave nothing.

This is before 2019. Once Modi has crossed the 2019 hump and returned to power, if at all, and gets his majority in the Rajya Sabha as well, he could very well shake off these leeches. This treatment of Mehooba and earlier of Naidu should serve as a wake-up call to the likes of Paswans and Athawales of this Government.

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