Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s take on the smooth conduct of elections in Jammu and Kashmir isn’t a mistake. It is spin, delivered with deliberation, to rationalise his post-poll coalition with the BJP.
The PDP leader’s badly-phrased comments signified no radical shift from his doctrinal position on the Kashmir question on which he advocates a three-way engagement between New Delhi, Islamabad and the Hurriyat Conference. The U-turn is in the alliance he has crafted with the ideologically antithetical BJP. The uproar and the red faces among his alliance partners could have been minimised had he frontloaded his gratitude for Pakistan and the anti-India elements it backs with a fair degree of praise for the electorate, the Indian Army and the Election Commission. The manner in which he spoke dented the BJP’s religio-military nationalist plank.
Look at it from the second-time CM’s standpoint. His entente with the saffron party is an affront to the mandate he got to scuttle the former’s much-touted Operation 44 for a majority in the 87-member House. The high voter turnout that Mufti attributed to Pakistan and what he called its “assets” on the Indian side of the LoC was propelled not by their generosity. It was an expression of Kashmir’s resolve to limit Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s appeal to the Jammu region.
Little wonder that the BJP lost deposit on all seats it contested in Kashmir barring one. Compare that with the performance of the estranged, discredited allies -- the National Conference and the Congress. They stalled the PDP’s sweep in Kashmir and captured Ladakh to aggregate 27 seats (15 plus 12) defying strong anti-incumbency against the government they ran.
In fact, their combined tally was better than the BJP’s 25 in number terms and regional representation, include at it did seats from Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh where the Congress pocketed all. The other surprise factor in the electoral outcome was the PDP’s below par performance, regardless of its single-largest party status and the Hindutva party’s total rejection in Kashmir. Its collateral beneficiaries were the NC-Congress.
The Mufti’s friendly overture towards Pakistan and the entities it sponsors seemed geared at obviating an early blowback they’re capable of engineering against his alliance with the BJP. He advocated reconciliation with Pakistan in the interest of peace and on the grounds that “there is an internal dimension and an external dimension (to the Kashmir issue).”
Already under fire from the Opposition, Modi would need a wealth of political ingenuity and patience to keep going his power-sharing pact with the PDP leader. For the PM took the lead in condemning the December 5 terror strikes in Srinagar, Uri and other places as “a shameful attack on the democratic process in Jammu and Kashmir.” Over a dozen people, including a Lt. Colonel from Ranchi, where the PM spoke a day later, were killed in the attacks before the third phase of the five-phase election in the state.
What suited Modi then in Jharkhand — where the BJP won power -- does not suit him either there or in Jammu any more. Because Mufti says Pakistan promoted democracy, not terror, in Kashmir.