BJP’s Kashmir Gorge
On the issue of extending support and withdrawing it right moment without inflicting damage to its credibility, BJP has enormous knowledge and abundant experience. But somehow, it missed its meaning, when it came to J & K in 2015.
When the BJP announced that it would form the government with the PDP after several rounds of consultations and discussions spread across over two-three months, the country expected that the saffron party was sure-footed of what it was doing. But the sudden turn of events where the incorrigible Mufti Mohammed Sayeed has been arbitrarily and blatantly cocking a snook at its coalition partners has taken the party leadership by surprise while the cadre across the length and breadth of the country are saddened and shocked.
The impunity with which Mufti sahib—with only fractured mandate and standing on the crutch—has been defending his decision to release elements inimical to India and Indian Security forces forced even Prime Minister Narendra Modi to say in the Parliament that the Centre does not agree with the decision taken by the Jammu and Kashmir chief minister. “I will share your anger and concern about what’s happening in Kashmir. But I will also assure this house and the country that the BJP government will not compromise on national integrity and security,” the Prime Minister said. While that statement brought in some sense of re-assurance to the beleaguered and embarrassed BJP leadership, it, however, did not assuage the feelings of the Opposition.
Whether the BJP leadership has erred in forming government with the PDP? And if yes, then where and how it has not been able to see through the diabolical and sinister designs of the Mufti sahib whose credentials are always a suspect, even when during his earlier stint as the Union Home Minister in the National Front government headed by the equally diabolical and unscrupulous V.P. Singh is a question that needs to be answered by the party leadership sometime in the near future.
But equally important question is; in the aftermath of the fractured mandate in the polls, was it possible for the BJP to handle the sensitive and delicate border state of Kashmir in a much more careful and strategic manner, instead of finding itself in the present embarrassing and precarious position?
Let me just interpolate and compare the present post-poll scenario of Jammu and Kashmir with the post-poll scenario in the aftermath of the 1989 Lok Sabha elections.
The mandate was against the Congress as Rajiv Gandhi party’s number in the Lok Sabha came down from 419 to 136. The BJP got 89 and the National Front was around 189 or so. While NTR was the Chairman of NF, V.P. Singh was its Convenor.
BJP and JD had fought on their respective planks; in fact, they had fought against each other, though there was some sort of loose seat adjustments here and there; BJP wanted to honor the people’s mandate which was against the Congress. In that situation, what the BJP did was something politically brilliant and a subject matter for keen students of political science.
The then BJP President L.K. Advani wrote a rather candid letter to NTR and VP explaining that the BJP and JD fought the elections on two different poll planks and hence it was difficult to share the same platform in the government as the leaders of the two parties had not shared the pre-poll political platform; but the still the BJP would like to respect the people’s mandate which is distinctly and categorically against the Congress, Advani wrote.
The tone and tenor of that historical letter—personally penned by none other than Advani—was brutally frank. He said, “In the given circumstances, the BJP is not reluctant and will not hesitate to extend an un-conditional but critical support to the government to be formed by the National Front.”
Advani did not stop at that; he told VP in no uncertain terms; “The ideology of the BJP and JD are different; there are lot of differences between us; in the fairness of things, we expect the government to confine its activities only in those areas where both the parties have something in common, like giving fair prices to the agricultural commodities; taking up irrigation-related works, taking up national highway development activities, etc, etc. Any transgression on ideological issues will be detrimental to the government.” That was a categorical and clear caveat that anybody can put, without inviting the wrath even from the most inimical quarters.
The two words used by Advani in his letter—unconditional and critical—are the most important component of his scholarly treatise; the word ‘unconditional’ gave free hand to VP to govern; the word ‘critical’ gave a free hand to Advani to walk out of the rickety arrangement, should a situation arise.
When the BJP realised that VP was up to his old tricks of minority appeasement and was all set to consolidate the OBC vote bank at the cost of BJP, the saffron party withdrew support on October 30, 1990 when Advani was arrested by V.P.Singh’s sancho panza Lalu Prasad Yadav at Samastipur. The dye was cast; Advani’s single step from Somnath to Ayodhya sent VP and his pseudo-secular, diabolical elements lock, stock and barrel. The rest is history.
Going by the present happenings in Jammu and Kashmir, a keen political observer would be forced to recall the events of 1989 and 1990 about what the BJP did then and what the BJP did now in 2015.
Was it not possible for the BJP to “extend an unconditional and critical support” to PDP without being a part of the government in the initial days and watched how the PDP behaved? And if the BJP was convinced of Mufti’s motive and intention; credibility and reputation; conduct and behaviour, then the BJP could have slowly stepped into the government. ‘Hasten slowly’ and ‘cautious optimism’ are the two phrases ought to have been the mantra of the BJP. It is most inexplicable, almost bizarre that the BJP in spite of having abundant experience and enormous knowledge on such tricky political situations, it missed its meaning.
Given the fact that Modi has been a master-strategist and a sure-footed leader with keen political acumen; and with brainy strategists in Ajit Doval, it is possible that the BJP government is bound to have something dramatic up its sleeve to wriggle itself out of the embarrassing situation, without, of course any collateral damage. The nation has invested its faith and confidence in Modi and his ability to steer the ship away from disaster on the choppy waters. But for the people and to the rank and file of the party—who are not privy to the long-drawn strategies and long-drawn visions—it is a matter of worrisome as well as embarrassment as it is they who have to answer the taunts and tantrums of their opponents on the ground on daily basis.
BJP has been on the dicey ground ever since the BJP-led NDA government headed by Vajpayee released three terrorists in exchange of Air India passengers in Kandahar in December 1999. With the PDP releasing pro-Paki elements, inimical to India’s security and security forces, with the support of the BJP, it would be further extremely difficult for the cadre and the admirers to answer their critics. The BJP leadership would do well to come out with a credible answer on how it propose to tackle the errand partner and what its plans are for the future.
By S A Hemantha Kumar