It has been over 50 days since the election results were announced in Jammu and Kashmir. The PDP and the BJP have been in talks and are reportedly close to a deal on forming a coalition government. There were indications that all they were waiting for was the Delhi assembly elections process to get through before announcing the details.
They may be close but are perhaps not done with consultations yet, even though media reports expect a deal to be in place within 10 days. PDP patron Mufti Mohammad Sayeed has said that both parties would hold a structured dialogue to finalise a common minimum programme before forming the government, adding that he was not in a hurry to do so. In perhaps a hint of the tenor of the talks, Mr Sayeed also asked the BJP to introspect after its defeat in Delhi and rein in elements “that had started feeling free to indulge in divisive language and actions”.
It is not clear how the two sides will reach an understanding on key issues such as Article 370 (which the BJP wants to abrogate) and the partial rollback of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act and talks with Pakistan which the PDP is keen on. It is important that they deal with these imaginatively as the state has vast governance deficits to address and needs a credible administration to address the persistent, widespread alienation in the Valley.
On Monday, a youth was shot dead in Palhalan and two others injured when police used live ammunition on people protesting against the conduct of a night raid. Such appalling incidents not only reinforce anger and feed Kashmir’s cynicism, they will serve to put further pressure on the PDP to stall a deal.
The Centre and the BJP must look beyond party-political interests and take bold political decisions on J&K to nudge both sides together, since an impasse that leads to President’s Rule would only lead to instability and further disaffection. The Centre has an obligation to try and reconcile the regions of Jammu and Kashmir that have developed serious differences over the years.