BJP-PDP Government A Fait Accompli
Given the constraints and compulsions the PDP-BJP alliance government has become a fait accompli. More so, because the PDP has the support of Kashmiris with it and the people of Jammu region have reposed their faith in BJP
After a two-month-long wait and suspense, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed finally sworn in as Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister as the head of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) coalition government last week. Both parties have put out a Common Minimum Programme (CMP) for governing the state of Jammu and Kashmir. The mammoth difficulties faced in forging this coalition are both an indication of the vulnerability of the coalition between the two factions coming together for power and of the extreme complexities of Jammu and Kashmir’s socio-political landscape. By any measure, the PDP-BJP alliance is not a perfect one but one that is necessitated by constraints and compulsions. The PDP with 28 seats, was the single largest party, and had other options to explore with both National Conference (NC) with 15 seats and Congress with 12 offering unconditional support to it for government formation. But it chose the BJP. PDP’s inclinations towards BJP stems from various reasons. First, a grand coalition with both National Conference and Congress was unacceptable to the PDP as it has traditional rivalry with both regional parties of the state. Government formation with Congress support and a few independents would have been a possibility but that would have been numerically too weak and susceptible to various risks of degenerate. It seems that the PDP was also guided by one other factor. There was an undercurrent in the party ranks that a coalition with BJP will ensure unrestricted flow of funds from the Centre and improve the working relations between the BJP government at the centre and the coalition government in Jammu and Kashmir.
Downplaying the Contentious Issues
The coming together of two sides with diametrically opposite ideologies means a certain climbdown by both the sides on certain contentious issues. For the sake of comparison, one can see the PDP’s poll plank of ‘greater autonomy’ and ‘supra-state measures’ as against the BJP’s known preference for abrogating the contentious Article 370 that gives special status to the state. As against the BJP’s hard stand against Pakistan, the PDP’s manifesto had asserted ‘self-rule’ by “making borders (with Pak-occupied Kashmir) irrelevant and creating complete connectivity”. Besides, the two parties also had diametrically opposite stands on revocation of controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), which gives immunity from prosecution to the armed forces, from the state. Statements made by PDP leaders and various BJP leaders contradict their earlier stand on many issues.
During the Assembly election campaign last year, Prime Minister Modi had trolled the musical chair in Srinagar, saying “Kabhi Baap-Betay ki sarkar, Kabhi Baap-Beti Ki sarkar” while taking on Farooq Abdulladh-Omar Abdulladh and Mufti Mohammad Sayeed-Mehbooba Mufti combine. On the other hand PDP had, asked people to vote for them to stop BJP from coming to power in the state. Now both the parties have sealed a deal with a hug. Now, the basis of the new coalition government will be a set of Common Minimum Programmes (CMP). However, political analysts are of the view that the CMP is more in line with PDP’s stand on various issues whereas BJP has compromised on various ideological issues, including Article 370 and settlement of Pakistani refugees, probably to grab the chance to form a government for the first time in the history of Jammu and Kashmir, the quintessential Muslim-majority state of India. But how well will the compromises made by the saffron brigade in order to form the government go down with their supporters?
Disgruntled voices have already started to surface in Jammu region, where some saffron outfits have alleged that BJP compromised on its ideological principles to form the government with PDP.
It will be difficult for BJP, which got all of its 25 seats in the 87-member Assembly from the Jammu region, to justify its decision to keep mum on Article 370, which provides special status to the state, as the party had raised the issue in the country during Parliamentary election and in the Assembly election of the state.
The BJP also has been advocating for resettlement of western Pakistan refugees in the state, but according to CMP both parties have agreed to “work out a one-time settlement for refugees from Pakistan Occupied Kashmir of 1947, 1965 & 1971 and take measures for sustenance and livelihood of the West Pakistan refugees” but didn’t promised them State Subject rights.
According to the CMP, “the Union Government has recently initiated several steps to normalise the relationship with Pakistan. The coalition government will seek to support and strengthen the approach and initiatives taken by the government to create a reconciliatory environment and build stakes for all in the peace and development within the subcontinent.” This means the government is ready to hold talks with the separatist leaders, which will be difficult to justify for the BJP as the Centre in August last year cancelled talks with Pakistan after its High Commissioner in New Delhi met Hurriyat Conference leaders. Furthermore, the BJP has always been in favour of the controversial Armed Force Special Powers Act (AFSPA), it will have to do a lot of explaining about the compulsions in which it agreed to remove AFSPA from some parts of the state.
PDP-BJP alliance’s common minimum programme states that all the land which has not been leased, licensed or acquired by the Army and other security forces in the state will have to be vacated. Also, Army and security forces will have to pay rent according to market rates if they have occupied public, private land or any building. If this programme is implemented, then it will surely help PDP in the long run as it will definitely take credit for this decision.
Given the geopolitical scenario with cross-border implications, Jammu and Kashmir couldn’t afford to remain without a popular government, for long. Therefore, a coalition government in the state was inevitable. For, character of the state politics, particularly of the Valley, is such as there is a tendency to rule out certain alliances. For example, Valley centric parties like PDP and N.C would not go together: BJP will never align with Indian National Congress. Therefore, given the constraints and compulsions the PDP-BJP alliance government has become a fait accompli. More so, because the PDP has the support of Kashmiris with it and the people of Jammu region reposed their faith in the BJP. Hence, if Jammu and Kashmir has to prosper, it is imperative that its government is all inclusive. If one has to take something positive from this, it is that this exercise provides an alternative discourse that it is possible for two political parties of different base areas and of extreme divergent ideologies, can come together in an alliance and work for the governance and develop a convergence of sorts, which may reduce psychological, political and regional divide.
By Nilabh Krishna