A statesman knows that some decisions in politics, no matter how internally inconsistent they may be, have to be taken to serve a bigger purpose or a fundamental principle - serving the interest and will of the masses.
The Mufti-Modi coalition of 2015 was not a mere coalition of two parties for the people of J&K but a coalition of hope, a coalition of dreams. It was anchored on the dream document “Agenda for Alliance”, where the government could have played an important role by initiating meaningful and sustained dialogues with various political groups irrespective of their ideological views. Notwithstanding its failure, the constructive potential of the coalition laid precisely in its unconventional engagement between very different perspectives on the Kashmir conflict.
It is time to underscore the circumstances setting off such an alliance and the deceit that followed.
The Right Wing Tide
Being a visionary and a great statesman, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, was cognisant of the fact that the country, post 2014 general elections, had shifted to the political right that was getting institutionalised by the day. He knew that the system will be replaced by a qualitatively different apparatus marked by high degree of ideological rigidity and punitive policies towards minorities, political dissenters and even forthright institutions. BJP garnering 25 seats in Jammu on this right wing hate-filled agenda was a testimony of this phenomenon.
The bull had entered the premises and it was only logical that in order to keep their vicious agenda in check, they had to be tied down by bringing them into the fold of a democratically elected government based on some terms and conditions. With the Common Minimum Program, called the “Agenda of Alliance”, the PDP could hold this pernicious bull by the horns to keep it in check.
It must be underscored that despite the BJP’s 70-year old ideological objective of abrogating Article 370, 35A among others, the PDP was the first party in the history of independent India that made the BJP give up this demand at the time of government formation.
Respecting the mandate of the people
Late Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, being a true democrat, had to accommodate the will and interest of the people in the government formation. Kashmir gave its mandate to PDP and Jammu mandated BJP to lead them. Therefore, treading the path of Insaniyat (humanism), Kashmiriyat (pride in Kashmir’s regional identity), Jamooriyat (democracy) taken by Vajpayee Ji and keeping into consideration the electoral ouster of JKNC at that time, one internally inconsistent decision of coalition of the Peoples Democratic Party with the Bharatiya Janata Party in 2015 was taken for peace, certainty and regional stability in J&K, where voting results on 23rd December 2014 returned a hung assembly with PDP, BJP, NC and INC winning 28 seats, 25 seats, 15 seats and 12 seats respectively. Being a bastion of the representative democracy, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed respected the mandate of all regions and tried to formulate a regionally stable and representative government. Just like Nehru and Gandhi accommodated Syama Prasad Mukherjee in the first government of the independent India, despite his ideological leanings, to make it more regionally and ideologically representative.
Protecting the Pluralistic character of Jammu and Kashmir
Ever since the enactment of the constitution of Jammu and Kashmir in 1956, the word “secular” was a part of its Directive principles. On the contrary the word secular was inserted in the preamble of the Indian constitution as 42nd amendment in 1976. Jammu & Kashmir and Peoples Democratic Party have always considered pluralism, ethnic diversity, fostering brotherhood and acceptance as vital to their core. And this core had to be protected.
BJP could successfully oust Congress by communalising the Jammu region before the elections of 2014. Late Mufti Sayeed knew that keeping them out of power and exploring other options for government formation could fracture the state on religious lines. In order to avoid the regional antipathy that could have manifested by the right wing premised on religious plank , the government formation was important. By bringing the BJP into the government, PDP at the helm therefore, prevented the misuse of public office for furthering of communal agenda in J&K.
Earlier experience under Atal Bihari Vajpayeeji
Atal Bihari Vajpayee, like Mufti Mohammad Sayeed was a political luminary. Mufti Sayeed’s experience with Atalji is a telling vindication of what leaders can achieve if at their heart lies the sacrosanct intention to ameliorate the sufferings of people. The earlier experience with BJP under Atalji heralded a new era in Jammu and Kashmir . For the first time we could see a signboard in Srinagar that said “Muzaffarabad 126 kms”. With this not only the roads but hearts also started opening up. The magnanimous policy of healing touch, ceasefire, disbanding of STF among others touched the hearts and minds of people. Economic activities and tourism flourished. It dawned the golden era in J&K. The BJP under Vajpayee was way different than the mob and the fringe that it now advances. The advancement of nefarious ideological designs like raking up the beef issue among others, was representative of the fact that at their heart lied the heinous intention to crush and divide the people of Kashmir.
The warm hug in 2015 and calling the historic great gesture by Mufti Sayeed as “mahamilavat” after his death tells that they shook with their right hand and kept a rock in their left.
During the alliance and post the fall of the government in 2018
From the very beginning the vile and despicable designs of the BJP were kept in check by the PDP. PDP tied them down to the Common Minimum Program. The sequence of events that unfurled, substantiated such sinister designs.
Firstly, PDP argued that the district wise removal of AFSPA in Jammu and Kashmir would contribute hugely to the healing touch in the state but NDA government was not comfortable with it. Despite their hyper-nationalistic outlook, the number of security personnel were reduced and security bunkers from many areas were removed. This instilled a sense of normalcy amongst locals as well as tourists.
Secondly, in the aftermath of Kathua rape case, the PDP was critical of the BJP going soft on the alleged party supporters of the accused in Kathua rape and murder case. The local BJP leaders wanted a CBI inquiry into the incident while Mehbooba Mufti preferred probe by the Jammu and Kashmir Police. The incident had gained a communal twist with rallies being held in support and against the accused. This Hindu-Muslim rant alienated Kashmir.
Thirdly, the first time offenders of stone pelting were given a chance to reform and an honest attempt was put in place to mainstream them. This was considered, by the BJP, to be a potential reason that could have dented the outcome of 2019 general elections.
Fourthly, the relocation of Gujjars and Bakkerwals was resisted by the PDP despite BJPs attempts, which we did witness in Roopnagar demolition in Jammu in the aftermath of abrogation of Article 370.
The extension of ceasefire that was sought by the PDP was considered to be the tipping point for the alliance by the BJP while as, in reality, it was the complete halting of their attempts to saffronise the institutions of J&K that made them break the alliance.
After internally breaking up the PDP, horse trading, abrogating Article 370 and 35A, downgrading the most fragile state to a union territory in an unprecedented manner, sending Lt Governors analogous to the British Viceroy with their obscure bureaucracy, thwarting the fundamental percept of democracy, that is, freedom of expression and marketing our home as “naya and normal Kashmir”, the question arises, has the Kashmir conundrum been abated by the majoritarian might or is the alienation being reinforced by the unconstitutional robbing of the rights of the people of J&K?
Mehboob Beg is Organizational General Secretary of JKPDP, ex-parliamentarian and ex-cabinet minister, Govt. of J&K.
Zuhaib Yousf Mir is the Srinagar District President for Youth, JKPDP.
The authors can be reached at their twitter accounts: @ZuhaibYousf and @Mehboobbeg
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.