What’s next for J&K after PDP-BJP split?

As apprehended, the PDP-BJP alliance remained unpopular in both Jammu and Kashmir as none of the agreements in the “agenda of alliance” could turn to reality during the past over three years

Photo by Waseem Andrabi/Hindustan Times via Getty Images
Photo by Waseem Andrabi/Hindustan Times via Getty Images
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Ashutosh Sharma

The inevitable has finally happened in Jammu and Kashmir. While the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) coalition government collapsed on Tuesday, the state was placed under Governor’s rule on Wednesday morning. 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.

The “North pole-South pole” alliance as it was termed by the former Chief Minister and chief patron of PDP Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, was formed on the “agenda of alliance”. 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.

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 Mehbooba Mufti and her party.

However, well before parting its ways, the BJP had already started working on retrieving its lost political ground in Jammu region. It had started using the Kathua rape and murder tragedy to revive its dwindling political fortunes in the region. BJP MLA Choudhary Lal Singh who had to resign as state’s forest minister along with industrial minister Chander Prakash Ganga after their presence at a rally held by Hindu Ekta Manch 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 has also been talking about the issues of “regional discrimination” with Jammu. Additionally, BJP recently gave a young and angry face to its state’s unit by appointing its controversial MLA Ravinder Raina as party’s state president, to revive party’s image in Jammu.

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 getting killed. The fear among protesting youth on the streets is now completely missing.

In fact, the rape and murder of the eight-year old nomadic Bakerwal girl proved a major flashpoint between the two warring coalition partners. 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 getting killed. The fear among protesting youth 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 Managment, 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 Anantnag Lok 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.

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 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 Shujaat Bukhari, 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.

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. It can focus on the issues like revocation of article 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.

While NN Vohra—whose term as state’s Governor comes to a close on June 25—will possibly get an extension till the Amarnath Yatra, speculations are rife that Modi government could replace him with an Army veteran to reinvigorate “Doval doctrine” which has already backfired on all fronts of the trouble-torn state. There are genuine
apprehensions that the Pakistani deep state could use the current situation for furthering its own designs in Jammu and Kashmir.

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