Modi And Mufti, Mismatched… How long can they tango together?
Mufti first thanked Pakistan and Hurriyat for peaceful polls. This was mocking the Indian Government and the security forces. This was not liked by Delhi. But Mufti went ahead doing things which indicated that he hardly bothered about the Centre or the BJP, with the help of which PDP could form the government
Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, Chief Minister of Jammu & Kashmir and head of the PDP appeared immediately after swearing-in very warm and cordial hug with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. But, thereafter he seem to be running a government at the behest of the Hurriyat Conference and other separatists. He first thanked Pakistan and Hurriyat for peaceful polls. This was mocking the Indian Government and the security forces.
This was not liked by Delhi. But Mufti went ahead doing things which indicated that he hardly bothered about the Centre or the BJP, with the help of which PDP could form the government. His actions have shaken the trust between him and Delhi and with the Kashmir unit of the BJP. At one stage, it seemed the coalition would not last even two months, the period which the two took in negotiating a minimum common programme.
What happened then? And more importantly what is likely to happen in the near future. The strategic position of the state , with both Pakistan and China as neighbours, makes it crucial for the country’s security. How long Mufti can be allowed to do things which endanger India’s security?
Mufti seemed determined to create tension with his partners. After thanking Pakistan and Hurriyat, Mufti’s MLAs demanded return of the body of Afzal Guru, who was hanged and buried in Delhi after the death sentence by Supreme Court for attack on Indian Parliament. This is a very emotional issue in the valley. The call by MLAs meant goodwill for him and for India another round of hatred. Was this his intention? Mufti’s support is basically of the Muslims and especially those who live in the southern part of the valley.
Positive Politics -The Spirit Of Democracy
Politicians need to discover the fact that a healthy democracy thrives on positive, not negative, politics. The 2014 state Assembly elections of J&K threw up a hung Assembly as the year 2014 proved to be a year of political change for the electorate of this country, who showed the incumbent governments the exit door. Here in J&K, two main regions chose two political parties with two distinct political philosophies to represent them in the state Assembly but none got the magical number to from the government on its own. The formation of a popular government in the state was absolutely unavoidable, as besides being a sensitive border state, J&K was ravaged by unprecedented devastating floods just three months before the election process. Moreover, the voters of the militancy-infested areas, for the first time, voted overwhelmingly, deposing their faith in democratic values, hoping a speedy solution of their grievances, caused by the recent floods. The heads and representatives of the two parties, in spite of professing and propagating poles apart ideologies, find themselves having been put to a knotty test by their voters. Hence they thought of cobbling together an alliance to gift their voters with a popular government that would let them realise their dreams. It took the BJP and PDP almost two months to chart out a common minimum programme (CMP) as a guiding force to ensure an accountable administration for all-round speedy development. After sustained deliberations and toiling discussions, the J&K political history witnessed a historic event of a coalition government that brought, so to say, north and south poles together, as for long the electorate of the Jammu region had been feeling the dominance of the Valleyites in the political corridors of the state. Thus the government formation infused into them a feeling to rely upon democracy, while any other move would definitely give vent to an uncertainty in their minds.
The first point of the CMP got translated into a full six-year term of Chief Ministership to PDP leader Mufti Mohammed Sayeed and Deputy Chief Ministership to the coalition partner. At this point of the time, it can easily be summed up that the CMP negotiators of either sides did a right thing at a right time by choosing Sayeed as the head of the coalition government, as he has a vast experience of handling the vexed social, economic, administrative and political problems in the capacity of Union Home Minister, state Chief Minister and a seasoned parliamentarian. What deserves a special mention here is the fact that the formation of the BJP-PDP coalition government is a stunning blow to the evil designed people, who have all through been working to divide Jammu and Kashmir on ethnic lines. Be it in J&K or across the border, a certain section of people has since the dawn of Independence been working hard to create a divide between the peace-loving people of J&K. So this government formation proved to be a thunderous slap in their face. However, whosoever played a direct or indirect role in the smooth conduct of free and fair election deserves kudos from all the stakeholders and Mr Sayeed lost no time in doing the needful.
Now that the government has been formed in the state, the citizenry of the country in general, and that of the state in particular, are hopeful of an efficient administrative deliverance at the hands of Mr Sayeed. In this connection, the Chief Minister, as the head of the state, and as Home Minister, implemented the order of the release of a separatist leader Masarat Aalam. The release order, having been pronounced during the Governor’s rule in the state, was awaiting implementation, which was carried out by the head of the popular government. Unfortunately, the negative-minded politicians lost no time in raising unnecessary hue and cry. They proved that they are not comfortable with positivity of politics. The prime target of a popular government happens to be deliverance of justice, as it is rightly said that justice delayed is justice denied. It is beyond one’s comprehension as to why negative-minded politicians make a mountain out of a molehill. It is noteworthy that a lesser-known supposedly organizer of stone-pelters Masarat’s release is being blown out of proportion by the opposition, making him a hero only to register their status of a viable opposition. No doubt, democracy has empowered the opposition of questioning the actions of the government, but at the same time, nobody should suspect the deliberations of a veteran Indian like Mufti Mohammed Sayeed. The opposition should not seem to be dancing to the tunes of extremist forces; they should rather work to strengthen the democratic secular and socialist set-up of the land.
And finally, the coalition government should be given some time to pass the litmus test of providing the promised corruption-free governance, speedy rehabilitation of flood victims and Kashmiri migrants, construction of new and damaged roads, availability of electricity and safe drinking water and above all in tackling the ever-growing unemployment problem. And in doing so, the opposition should play a constructive and healthy role, befitting a democracy.
By Manzoor Zahoor from Srinagar
All these actions and statements had created strains but in retrospect it seems Mufti was testing how far he could go without reaching the breaking point. He, despite opposition from the local BJP, released chief of Muslim League and senior Hurriyat Conference leader Masart Alam from Baramulla jail. He was lodged there since 2010, after he organised anti-India riots across the valley. He had several other charges against him and carried a reward of Rs 10 lakhs for any information about him as he had gone underground. He was arrested four months later. He enjoys support of Pakistan also and is tipped to succeed Syed Ali Geelani.
Mufti pointed out that he faced no criminal charges. Mehbooba Mufti said that the release of political prisoners was nothing new. In 2002 ‘when we were in government with the Congress and Vajpayeeji was leading the Centre and L.K. Advani was the Home Minister, senior political prisoners against whom no criminal charges were registered were released.
However the BJP leader in Srinagar objected vehemently and said it was an insult to the Security Forces. All hell broke loose in Delhi and Modi told the agitated opposition that he shared their anger over the release of Masart.
The Delhi fury registered at last. Reports trickled in that Mufti Mohammad Sayeed assured Rajnath Singh that in future no separatist would be released without consultation with the Centre. A PDP spokesperson also clarified that Alam’s release was ordered by the State Home Department in February when the state was under Governor’s rule.
But Singh added that he was not satisfied with the state government’s explanation and for the BJP security of the country is more important than the alliance. He outright refuted that Mufti had called him.
This is a rather unpleasant twist. This means no assurance has come from Mufti. It also means that he might have released Alam at the behest of the Hurriyat and to please the separatists with whom he is alleged to have very good terms. In fact even before the government was formed there, it was openly said that once Mufti becomes Chief Minister, Hurriyat and other separatists would have influence over him and they would make him do things at their biddings.He has been doing exactly that, even at the risk of Delhi breaking the alliance. Sources in the valley, however, say that Mufti would now not release any more political detainees nor will Hurriyat press him because they do not want Mufti lose power.
Mufti’s problem, rather dilemma, is that he aligned with the BJP knowing fully well that the Valley Muslims were very resentful. No one wanted to see the day when a Hindu Party will be part of the government in Srinagar. So to assuage his constituency and retain his base, Mufti has been doing things which seemingly are the demands of the valley Muslims. But he would not like that his government falls. Sources in the know confirmed that Mufti would not release any more political prisoners. If he is pushed hard to release any political detainee he might feign ill-health and handover the reins of the government to his daughter Mehbooba.
The BJP too is not going to leave the Valley. It wants to build some base there and increase its presence in Jammu region. Sources said the coalition will continue.
The Hurriyat and their patron ISI, know that if the government goes, Governor’s Rule will follow. And that could create great difficulty for separatists. This government at the Centre is very different from the UPA. It can be very decisive and not leave much choice to separatists—either join the mainstream or cross the border and go away.
But the Centre would avoid dismissing the Mufti coalition, because then Mufti would become a martyr and come back with absolute majority. Also the coalition is good for both regions—Jammu and the valley. Both are represented. Secondly, Modi, if peace persists, would pour good money for the region’s development. That would give the youth who used to throw stones, jobs and responsibility. Peace could become permanent.
Salient Features Of Common Minimum Programme
- 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.
- The same will be pursued by taking confidence building measures, such as, enhancing people to people contact on both sides of the LoC; encouraging civil society exchanges, taking travel, commerce, trade and business across the LoC to the next level and opening new routes across all three regions to enhancing connectivity.
- The earlier NDA government led by Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee had initiated a dialogue process with all political groups, including the Hurriyat Conference, in the spirit of “Insaaniyat, Kashmiriyat aur Jamhooriyat”.
- Following the same principles, the coalition government will facilitate and help initiate a sustained and meaningful dialogue with all internal stakeholders, which will include all political groups irrespective of their ideological views and predilections. This dialogue will seek to build a broad based consensus on resolution of all outstanding issues of J&K.
- The situation in the State has improved vastly and to build greater public confidence in its sustainability, people of the State must be able to get the peace and normalcy dividend. In this context, the coalition government will thoroughly review the security situation in the state with a view to examine the need and desirability of all the special laws being applied to the state in view of the situation which is improving.
- While both parties have historically held a different view on the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and the need for it in the State at present, as part of the agenda for governance of this alliance, the coalition government will examine the need for de-notifying ‘disturbed areas’. This, as a consequence, would enable the Union Government to take a final view on the continuation of AFSPA in these areas.
- All lands other than those given to the security forces on the basis of lease, licenses and acquisition under the provision of the Land Acquisition Act shall be returned to the rightful legal owners, except in a situation where retaining the lands is absolutely imperative in view of a specific security requirement. In any case, monetary remuneration, be it in the form of rents or compensation should be made fairly at market rates.
Social & Humanitarian Initiatives
Protecting and fostering ethnic and religious diversity by ensuring the return of Kashmiri Pandits with dignity based on their rights as state subjects and reintegrating as well as absorbing them in the Kashmiri milieu. Reintegration will be a process that will start within the state as well as the civil society, by taking the community into confidence.
- Developmental Agenda
- In order to address the real source of J&K’s fiscal problem and pave the way for making J&K a fiscally autonomous state, the State Government will work with the Union Government to explore modalities for transfer of Dulhasti and Uri hydro power projects to J&K as suggested by the Rangarajan Committee Report and the Round Table reports. Till such time the new development paradigm takes shape and yields fruits, the Coalition Government will take specific measures to ease day to day life which includes: Rehabilitation and Relief for the Flood Affected victims and their families: The Government of India (GoI) must fully fund the rehabilitation and reconstruction plan.
- There shall be a steering committee comprising of the President of PDP and BJP, and four members each from the parties for overseeing the implementation of the Common Minimum Program.
(Uday India Bureau)
Is this then the best alliance? A senior retired Army General and a senior intelligence officer disagree. They said after all PDP is a Muslim party and has influence in the valley. Thus a communal inferno is possible any time, and the sympathy for Pakistan would always be there. A Political strategist suggested a very interesting solution to the present imbroglio because of Mufti’s dependence on the separatists. He said the only secular party in the State is National Conference. It has, unlike the PDP, presence apart from the valley in Jammu and Ladhakh and it has voters from both the communities. If India wants a genuine integration between Kashmir and the rest of India, there has to be a secular party with influence. That means National Conference. It has pockets of influence in Jammu, the Valley and Ladhakh. Whenever Farooq or Omar Abdullah has been part of the Centre, there has been no problem.
The two suggested that once Farooq returns from London this month, BJP should try and negotiate with him. The General said, “It is high time to integrate Kashmir and this can only be done if there is a secular party to associate. Otherwise Art 370 will never be removed when in alliance with Mufti.”
This is point worthwhile considering.
By VIjay Dutt