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J&K Govt Formation: Did BJP have the last laugh?

PDP leader Mehbooba Mufti with Prime Minister Narendra Modi

PDP leader Mehbooba Mufti with Prime Minister Narendra Modi

After a “positive” meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti is holding a meeting of her party on March 24 where she will be elected the leader of her party, paving the way for her take over as the next J&K Chief Minister. This turn of events has come as a relief to the most leaders of her party who lacked the motivation to face another election, but has not gone down well with the people, who expected PM to publicly concede some of Mehbooba’s demands for the alliance to go ahead again.

But nothing of the sort has happened. After meeting Modi, Mehbooba said she was “satisfied now”. She revealed nothing about the talks with PM and whether he had acceded to any of her demands. PDP had sought immediate action on the three things to create a fresh rationale for the ideologically antithetical alliance.

These comprised the vacation of the land illegally held by Army in the state, or else compensation at market rates, Second, announcement of two smart cities for J&K, one for Jammu and another for Srinagar. And the third, the return of one or two of the power projects owned by NHPC in the state.

But while Army in a recent statement agreed to respect its previous commitments with the state government to withdraw from the land occupied by it without any proper documentation, there has been no forward movement on the last two demands. In case of Army too, the concession was made during the ongoing Governor’s rule, and hence it hardly redounds to the credit of the PDP.

PDP leadership, however, has an explanation. Says senior PDP leader and the Mufti loyalist Naeem Akhter: “BJP has expressed its commitment to our Agenda of Alliance. And we have been told that the common minimum programme will be implemented over the course of the coalition’s remaining term”.

He said that the Army’s willingness to vacate the land was the outcome of the PDP-BJP understanding. “This was not possible without BJP’s cooperation,” he said.

However, BJP has been reluctant to concede anything publicly. In fact, after Mehbooba’s meeting with PM, the BJP only seemed to up the ante. ““The Prime Minister told her that the party (BJP) was the appropriate forum for engagement on government formation,” BJP’s national general secretary Ram Madhav told a local agency in Srinagar. He also said that the “final round of negotiations” on government formation in J&K will take place after PDP holds the legislative party meeting on March 24.

So, there is little clarity as to what new understanding the parties have actually reached. But one thing is clear, BJP has refused to make any public concession to Mehbooba. What is more, Arun Jaitley didn’t call the mutually agreed PDP-BJP ‘Agenda of Alliance’ by its name in a series of tweets which expressed BJP’s commitment to the common minimum programme in J&K. Instead, Jaitley tellingly wrote that the BJP was committed to the ‘Agenda of Governance’ for J&K.

“If we stick to agenda for governance in J&K, there should be no problem. Mehbooba Mufti has to make up her mind,” Jaitely tweeted on the eve of Mehbooba’s meeting with PM.

However, Agenda for Governance would literally translate into day to day governance, while as Agenda of Alliance has a distinct politico-ideological dimension. The Agenda of Alliance talks not only about the return of the power projects or the vacation of the land illegally held by Army, it also talks about the efforts for the resolution of the larger issue of Kashmir. The Agenda of Alliance also seeks upholding of the special constitutional position of Kashmir in Indian Union.

But over the past two and a half months of logjam, BJP has consistently refused to reaffirm its commitment to these aspects of the party’s alliance with PDP. Now when Mehbooba seems all but ready to form the government with BJP, people in Kashmir want answers to these questions. So far, she has said nothing. But she will have to clear the air if she has to justify her open defiance of the centre over the past two and a half month.

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