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Polls in mind, BJP dumps PDP

Decision taken by PM Modi, Amit Shah | J&K heading towards Governor’s Rule20 Jun 2018 | 2:21 AM

NEW DELHI/SRINAGAR:The awkward political alliance in Jammu and Kashmir came unstuck on Tuesday with the BJP, citing the PDP’s “inability” to address core issues and improve law and order in the restive state that took a turn for the worse last week following the chilling murder of journalist Shujaat Bukhari and the killing of an Indian Army soldier around the same time, suddenly withdrew support to its partner of three years.

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Vibha Sharma & Ehsan Fazili

Tribune News Service

New Delhi/Srinagar, June 19

The awkward political alliance in Jammu and Kashmir came unstuck on Tuesday with the BJP, citing the PDP’s “inability” to address core issues and improve law and order in the restive state that took a turn for the worse last week following the chilling murder of journalist Shujaat Bukhari and the killing of an Indian Army soldier around the same time, suddenly withdrew support to its partner of three years.

‘Frenemies’ at the best of times, the saffron party let go of Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti’s hand and said it had become “untenable” to go with her any further in Jammu and Kashmir. The announcement, made by BJP general secretary Ram Madhav in New Delhi, set the stage for Governor’s Rule —  if imposed, it will be the fourth time since 2008 and the eighth since 1977 — and triggered frenetic talk of early elections in the state.

In Srinagar, Mehbooba, who claimed she was “not shocked” by the BJP’s decision to pull the plug on her tentative administration, gave one back and declared from her Gupkar residence after an emergency meeting with the top PDP leadership that her party has always maintained that a “muscular security policy” would not work in the state and that reconciliation was the way out.

“One can’t treat Jammu and Kashmir as an enemy territory,” she said, adding they had gone for the alliance after much thought and with the hope that “the big party” will help bridge the gap between the two regions. “Our alliance was not liked by people, but the ideas, for which it was made, were bigger. These included talks with Pakistan, ceasefire, reconciliation and confidence-building measures,” she said soon after submitting her resignation as Chief Minister to Governor NN Vohra.

The two partners had campaigned hard against each other in the run-up to Assembly polls in which the BJP won 25 seats and the PDP 28 in the 87-member House. 

The NC snapped up 15 seats and the Congress 12. Other parties won seven. But soon after results were out, the bitterness during campaigning was forgotten and an alliance forged two months after the December 2014 elections. They had then said that behind the “agenda of alliance” was the dream that the state would be pulled out of the unending cycle of violence. It's a different matter that the partnership was uncomfortable since the start, with the ideologically divergent parties differing, often loudly, on a host of issues and tactics even as the security situation refused to improve.

The move by the BJP, however, is believed to have stumped a majority of the party's leaders from the state who were summoned by their president  Amit Shah at the headquarters in New Delhi for a quick briefing. Sources said the call was taken at the highest level by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Shah. They added that state leaders were simply "informed" about it. Significantly, the announcement was preceded by a meeting between Shah and NSA Ajit Doval.

Seen as an effort to assuage dedicated cadres upset over a variety of issues and widespread sentiment that the Ramzan ceasefire had backfired, some observers said the decision could well have been taken in consonance with Mehbooba, keeping in mind the upcoming 2019 Lok Sabha elections. They said that it would keep the dedicated cadre of each party happy.

Madhav, though, denied the BJP was losing support or its vote base in the Jammu region, which overwhelmingly rooted for the party in the last Assembly elections. But he did mention the "growing resentment in Jammu and Ladakh regions over the lack of development and a perceptible sense of discrimination."

He said the BJP joined hands with the PDP respecting the mandate of the people of the state, but the alliance partner showed little interest in improving law and order. "In the last three years, the BJP tried its best to work towards the objectives of the coalition government-peace, development and progress in all three important regions of Jammu, Ladakh and Kashmir. In spite of these measures, we find that the state government has not been effective in addressing the core issues. The security scenario has deteriorated, causing serious concern regarding the protection of basic fundamental rights of life and free speech. The murder of editor Shujaat Bukhari in the heart of Srinagar is an indicator to the deterioration of the situation and the extent of radicalisation".

Amidst the swirl of action both in Kashmir and New Delhi, with each of the big parties — the BJP, Congress, PDP and NC — ruling out alliances if elections are called, Governor Vohra by evening asked Mehbooba to continue till an alternative arrangement is made and forwarded his report to the President of India for imposition of Governor’s rule.

Quotes

The murder of editor Shujaat Bukhari in the heart of Srinagar is an indicator to the deterioration of the situation and the extent of radicalisation. — Ram Madhav, BJP gen secy

The NC is not discussing government formation in Jammu and Kashmir with any other political party. Neither has anyone approached us, nor are we going to approach anyone from here. — Omar Abdullah, NC

The alliance has devastated the state, be it economically or socially, and has left Jammu and Kashmir in a state of ruins. — Ghulam Nabi Azad, Cong

The damage will continue under President’s Rule. Incompetence, arrogance and hatred always fail (sic). — Rahul Gandhi, Cong chief

Polls in mind, BJP dumps PDPBJP national general secretary Ram Madhav with party leaders Kavinder Gupta (L) and Ravinder Raina (R), state BJP chief, at a press conference in New Delhi on Tuesday. Tribune photo: Manas Ranjan Bhui

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