This Article is From Jun 22, 2018

Mehbooba Was Burdened By Her Father With An Impossible Legacy

I do not know whether Mehbooba Mufti is a fan of Bollywood hit songs, but if she is, she must be humming to herself:

"Kya hua tera wada,
Woh kasam, woh irada..."

For was it not Ram Madhav who told Karan Thapar on India Today TV: "We have confidence in the PDP-BJP government led by Mehbooba Mufti. It will last its full six years"? Oh, yeah? Then why terminate it in four?

Because, says Ram Madhav, "It has become untenable for the BJP to continue its alliance, hence we are withdrawing". But, in that case, why but four months ago, on the third anniversary of the Mehbooba government, was Ram Madhav boasting: "The two parties have been able to run affairs quite smoothly...the two parties are working in perfect tandem"? Wow! Not even four months from "perfect tandem" to perfect breakdown!

Madhav went on to claim: "With the PDP, the BJP did not have any major contradiction as far as governance issues are concerned". On April 14 - a mere two months before his party pulled the rug from under their alliance partner - he reconfirmed that "there is no threat to the ruling PDP-BJP coalition in Jammu and Kashmir as both parties are working in coordination". Madhav then added, "Today, we have been able to bring peace to the Valley. Barring attacks by militants, the Valley is peaceful".

So peaceful that Ram Madhav now turns around to say to Prashant Jha and Kumar Uttam of The Hindustan Times: "some thinking was going on for the last couple of months" - the very months during which he was claiming that the BJP-PDP had "been able to bring peace to the Valley" - were, in fact, the months in which "we noticed growing radicalization, growing attacks on the army and CRPF convoys", indeed that it was in those very months that the new realization dawned on the BJP that while rainbows can be created, "by its very nature, rainbows are short-lived". A chameleon would have difficulty competing with Ram Madhav in changing colours. In any case, he is quite wrong: the UPA's rainbow coalition lasted ten years.

While the ever slippery Madhav may now assert that "never in our discussion with the Prime Minister and the Home Minister did any political consideration come up", we have a "senior office-bearer of the BJP" quite bluntly telling Nistula Hebbar of The Hindu: "The situation in the state has become such that both of our core constituencies have become alienated from us...By pulling out first, we can still hope to retrieve some ground". There we have it in black and white - the real reason for the BJP's about-face. They are getting ready for the 2019 - not the three seats in J&K that they will, in any case, lose, but the 282 seats in the country that they won in 2014 by polarizing the electorate, among other reasons.

Mehbooba's biggest mistake is that she left it to the BJP to take the initiative; she gets none of the credit for having held out against the BJP for more than two years, as now, far too late, she defends herself saying: "We defended Article 370 and 35A. We can't treat J&K as enemy territory. There is no room for a 'muscular policy in the state'". Of course, she is right - but is anybody listening? Omar Abdullah hit the nail on the head: "I have been telling Mehbooba to go. She chose to be dismissed with no dignity".

Alas, she remained for far too long in thrall to her father whose words still ring in her ears: "I saw a historic opportunity to break a new a path in resolving issues of chronic friction between regions and ethnic groups in the state by forging an alliance with the BJP". Alas for father and daughter, this unprincipled and immoral alliance only aggravated these frictions.

The fact is that the PDP-BJP alliance cobbled together by the late Mufti Mohammad Sayeed was always inopportune and opportunistic. Far from uniting the Jammu and Kashmir regions, it drove them further and further apart. And far from bringing Ladakh into the equation, never before has Ladakh felt so neglected and rendered so irrelevant in the affairs of the composite state as in the four years since the much-respected Mufti Sahib signed away his reputation and burdened his daughter with an impossible legacy.

That burden was sought to be lightened with an Agenda for Alliance that was released by Amit Shah and Mehbooba in Srinagar on February 25, 2016 but remained a "scrap of paper" that the BJP never had the least intention of observing. Yet, mesmerized by Modi's strong man image, Mehbooba allowed herself to be diddled by his false promises and her vain hopes. Now, she has been cast aside by the same Modi on whom she pinned her excessive expectations. This "unholy alliance" has deprived her of virtually all the support that she and her father once enjoyed in the Valley. She will have to campaign relentlessly on a pro-Azaadi line to retrieve something of her political credibility and lost honour.

As for the BJP, their strong suit remains communalization. Indeed, it was fear of losing their core constituency in not just Jammu but the country as a whole that accounts for their ending the alliance quite as dishonourably as they did putting it together. Not till the governments change after elections at both the centre and the state is there any possibility of forward movement. Meanwhile, the army and the police are left unfettered to aggravate the situation further. Pity the poor people of the Valley.

There is one last hope of rescuing them: elections. For the people in every region of the state have suffered as never before in the four wasted years of Ram Madhav's "rainbow alliance". Ladakh always rejected the PDP's collusion with the BJP; Kashmir has been seething and simmering, with frequent volcanic eruptions; and as for Jammu, Pooja Shali has put it so well in the Daily O that I can do no better than cite her: "The BJP lost massive ground in Jammu these last few months. It was becoming difficult for the party to defend itself on issues of illegal foreign settlements, border tensions and indiscriminate killings in border towns. The alienation being felt by the people in the Jammu and Ladakh regions had reached tipping point". 

So, if elections in J&K are held along with the five other sates going to the polls this winter, the BJP would have added one more certain defeat to those it is already facing. Truly has it been said, "It is always darkest before dawn"!

(Mani Shankar Aiyar is former Congress MP, Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha.)

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