The breakup of the BJP-PDP alliance that was running the government in Jammu and Kashmir was expected. The alliance was not working. Especially during the past one year, divergent and contrarian voices from the two parties were engaged in slanging matches in public. The Bharatiya Janata Party and the Jammu and Kashmir People’s Democratic Party had sharp differences on almost all issues, be it the Kathua rape, the removal of the AFSPA (Armed Forces Special Powers Act), the Ramzan ceasefire, army action against terrorists or dialogue with Pakistan. In Kathua, some BJP leaders mobilized people in favour of the men arrested for the rape of a minor girl, in contrast to PDP leaders including chief minister Mehbooba Mufti who were seeking harshest action against them. As regards AFSPA, which gives special powers to the army to search and detain in the designated areas, the PDP wanted its withdrawal from most parts, almost echoing the demand of the separatist groups. The BJP opposed the PDP stance, saying the situation in the state did not warrant withdrawal of the AFSPA. The discord between the two parties became worse when the central government decided to resume counter-terror operations after the month-long suspension of operations in the state during Ramzan. Mehbooba Mufti had asked the central government to extend the suspension of operations by two more months.
As the differences between the two partners became irreconcilable, BJP President Amit Shah called a meeting of the party MLAs in New Delhi to review the situation in Jammu and Kashmir and the achievements made by the party since it formed the government over three years ago. The meeting decided to pull out of the alliance. Announcing the party’s decision to the media on Tuesday, BJP General Secretary Ram Madhav listed some of the reasons for the breakup: one, terrorism, violence and radicalisation have risen. Two, fundamental rights of the citizens were in danger in the Kashmir valley as the killing of independent journalist Shujaat Bukhari showed. Three, BJP ministers faced hindrances in discharging their duties in the last three years. Four, people from Jammu and Ladakh were facing discrimination.
The BJP can go on listing its reasons, and so can the PDP. The question is that the two parties knew it very well that they had fundamental ideological and political differences before they decided to form an alliance to run the government after the last Assembly elections in which no party got a majority. The media had flashed the picture of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the PDP founder and then chief minister Mufti Mohammed Sayeed in a great hug when the alliance was formed. Even as he began, Sayeed said the BJP-PDP alliance was like coming together of the North Pole and South Pole!
The BJP top leadership knew very well the position of the PDP on the various issues relating to the security in Kashmir. No wonder, the Agenda for Alliance the two parties signed were full of broad and abstract rhetoric. For instance, the agenda was claimed to be “an effort towards seeking a national reconciliation on J & K.” It was said to be aimed to “catalyse reconciliation and confidence building within and across the Line of Control (LoC), thereby ensuring peace in the state.” In short, the alliance was doomed from the start. However, it should not be taken away from the BJP and the PDP that despite being North Pole and South Pole they did come together to try and see if they could work together to do something worthwhile for the peace and progress of the state. But both parties also now must be blamed for not compromising on their extreme positions to make the government work. The PDP kept on insisting that peace cannot be brought to the state unless India resumes dialogue with Pakistan, and the BJP kept rebutting that unless Pakistan stops carrying out acts of terror and firing across the LoC there can be no dialogue. The PDP suggested the onus for resumption of dialogue was on India; the BJP suggested it was on Pakistan.
In short, the lack of efforts by the two partners to step back from their extreme positions led to a lack of faith in the credibility and efficacy of the alliance government. The terror groups, the separatist groups and the stone pelting youth could not repose their trust in the divided alliance to make serious, genuine and sustaining endeavour to start a dialogue for confidence building and reconciliation. However, with the governance now in the hands of the central government the danger is that its chasm with the separatists might widen. Even as the central government steps up its counter-terror campaign it must keep its doors open for dialogue for reconciliation.