As Mehbooba Mufti looks set to take over as the first woman Chief Minister of J&K, she has nothing to offer by way of any credible achievement for her two and a half month of wait. In the end, she behaved as if she asked for nothing and BJP acted as if it yielded nothing.
Only thing that Mehbooba said after the breakthrough meeting with the Prime Minister Narendra Modi was that she was “satisfied now,” giving an impression that the PM had agreed to her demands. Now the biggest initial challenge for her government would be to justify this belated satisfaction.
First six months of the coalition government will thus be crucial. People will judge it by the action on some key points of the Agenda of Alliance.
More so, on the three demands, the prior action on which Mehbooba had made a prestige issue: One, the vacation of the land illegally held by the Army or else a compensation to the owners. Second, announcement of the two smart cities for J&K, one for Jammu and another for Srinagar.
And the third which PDP prizes over many other demands is the return of one or two of the power projects owned by NHPC in the state. The Agenda of Alliance framed by the two parties mentions that the coalition government will explore modalities for transfer of Dulhasti and Uri hydro power projects to J&K as suggested by the Rangarajan Committee report.
The progress in the implementation of these demands in the next six months is thus critical to the political standing of Mehbooba.
“These are the doables as against the contentious political steps agreed to in the common minimum programme,” says Naseer Ahmad, a local columnist. “And if even these can’t be implemented, or at least a beginning is not made, it will reflect badly on Mehbooba”.
Making things further difficult for Mehbooba is the series of steps Governor N N Vohra took in his so far two and a half month rule. Vohra moved swiftly on the pending governance issues including some of those on the Agenda of Alliance. One such issue is the vacation of land by the Army. In a recent statement, Army agreed to return over 350 acres of state land under its use in twin capitals of Srinagar and Jammu and in southern Anantnag and frontier Kargil districts of Jammu and Kashmir by March 31.
Second, Governor has ensured the quick disbursement of the inordinately delayed flood relief among flood-hit families and the traders. In little under a month Deputy Commissioners have transferred financial assistance of around Rs 600 crore into bank accounts of beneficiaries — 54,335 people whose houses were damaged and 23,112 traders hit by flood.
Immediate flood relief had been one of the major election promises of PDP. But in the ten months that it ruled the state with BJP, no relief was released to the state by the centre.
So, as Mehbooba finally agrees to form the government, it is only the easier part of her challenge that is over. A far tougher call begins now.