Truth to tell, this will she, won't she business about Mehbooba Mufti and her PDP staking claim to the Chief Ministership of Jammu and Kashmir, even a month after the demise of Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, is becoming more and more of a bore. That Mehbooba has the right credentials to succeed her father goes without question; that the People"s Democratic Party, co-founded by her with her father, is very much in the picture is clear as daylight.
What's not, is the dithering that has marked the PDP's reluctance to do the obvious: assume office. Yes, Mehbooba is not her father and hence her fears that the coalition partner, Bharatiya Janata Party, may not play ball when it comes to implementing the common agenda hammed out a year ago. That the BJP did not act fairly the ten months Mufti Sayeed led the coalition was crystal clear from day one, in fact the very day the Mufti had taken oath of office. Going back on solemn promises the Narendra Modi Government in Delhi became more a norm than an aberration.
Yet, the Mufti chose to give the Centre a longer rope, ignoring the latter's failure to live up to promises made. I recall a few occasions when the Mufti, a friend of almost half a century's standing, pleaded for restraint in speaking of Centre's betrayal on agreed things ranging from flood relief to financial packages; towards the end he even put a helpful, gloss over Modi's rude reference to his not needing advice from anyone on how to deal with Pakistan, without naming Mufti. The truth is that mending Indo-Pak fences was an article of faith with the Kashmir leader as also his belief that last year's Assembly elections had not necessarily accentuated divisions between the three regions constituting the State.
Indeed during a candid chat between the two of us he questioned the wisdom of Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah's Quit Kashmir movement in the 40s against the then ruling Dogra Maharaja. World War II was heading towards a closure, the sub-continent was headed towards freedom; why did the Sheikh have to choose this moment to launch his movement. This he believed (in retrospect) the Sheikh had sown the seeds of the Kashmir-Jammu divide. All this was of the cuff stuff but revealing of Mufti"s thinking.
So, if he chose to give Modi and his BJP government a longer rope than was warranted under the terms of the agreed agenda Mufti, a product of an earlier era of politics, was hopeful of a change in the Centre's stance.
In fairness to Mehbooba, she may have grown under the shadow of Mufti Sayeed, but she always has had a mind of her own, not loath to arguing things out. I had noticed this trait during the formative years of the PDP and later when Mufti and Mehbooba led the party's poll campaign the first time ever, almost two decades ago. So I am not surprised when Mehbooba says she needs to be sure that the vision enshrined in the agreed agenda will be implemented if and when the odd PDP-BJP alliance is revived. Mebooba is right when she says she is not her father; she certainly cannot afford to be like him, given the precarious nature of politics in the State, the Valley in particular.
She must unavoidably pay attention to strengthening her party, to reinvigorate its cadres, somewhat disillusioned by the alliance's failure to deliver on promises made during the poll campaign. To survive as a political force her primary concern must remain the strengthening of party's hold in the valley; it's the valley after all that has sustained her party and its concerns must, therefore, remain her principal concern too. I am not aware of her skills as apolitical operator but from what little I know of her, from the days she was a growing young lady in Mufti Sayeed"s New Delhi home, when Mufti was successively a Minister at the Centre. In many ways she has seen it all.
And she cannot be unaware of the presence in the wings, as it were, of hostile political elements, simply waiting for her to fail. In the circumstances, it may not be enough for her to speak in terms of confidence building measures, as a first step top her taking the plunge at the head of the alliance; the common agenda of the alliance between the two parties, thrashed out last year,firmed up by the two sides at the highest level; it is still a valid document and all it needs is the two sides sitting across the table and reaffirm their commitments.
The BJP says it has every intention to honour the accord although one look at the record of the first nine months of the coalition's record suggests they may indeed have observed it – but only in its breach. Mind you, it is not that I expect Modi's government to swear by the sanctity of what it had agreed to while forging the accord with Mufti Mohammad Sayeed. But the present state of drift in Jammu and Kashmir is no way helping the State.
The Governor has made himself comfortable, appointing two former civil servants as his Advisers. But is this what the last State Assembly polls were about? Must the unending agony of the State, the valley in particular, continue as New Delhi plays pointless games? Must the BJP be allowed to rule by proxy in the State.
The cockinss of some of the BJP worthies defies description. Like Mr Ram Madhav the RSS honcho turned BJP General Secretary arguing that the agreed agenda is still in place. Like the Jammu BJP leaders saying they have six years to fulfil their commitments under the agreed agenda, not caring to answer questions about the promised aid packages, return of the power plants or unfulfilled flood relief and rehabilitation package.
Sulking in silence is not the answer. The State must confront the BJP dispensation in Delhi head-on. It can't hope to rule the State by proxy. There is need for the PDP to confront the BJP leadership in New Delhi. It's time to remind Narendra Modi of the commitments made by him to the State. It's time for Mehbooba Mufti to come out and speak out even as she rebuilds her party.