The BJP seems unwilling to expand the ambit of the agenda of alliance with the Mehbooba Mufti-led PDP in Jammu and Kashmir and will not cede any more ground than what was agreed upon before forming a government under Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, whose death this month led to a political uncertainty in the state.
The Mehbooba Mufti-led Peoples Democratic Party had sounded out to the BJP that it wants the Centre to agree to lift the controversial Afspa from at least two districts of the state and deliver its commitment to vacate buildings occupied by security forces before she takes oath as the chief minister.
The state was placed under governor’s rule earlier this month after the PDP put off Mehbooba’s swearing-in after her father Sayeed’s death to nudge its alliance partner to give her party a better deal.
“There are issues (such as Armed Forces Special Powers Act) on which we have historically held different views. After a detailed discussion, we reached a common ground in the agenda of alliance. Now, it would be difficult to broaden the scope of the alliance... Like her, we also have certain constituencies to address,” a BJP leader in New Delhi told HT.
He went on to point that the Bharatiya Janata Party was ready to give her sufficient time to make up her mind on forming a government. “We are not putting any pressure on her but we won’t buckle under pressure either,” he said.
Another party leader said he expected the fresh concessions being sought by the PDP to be a starting point for any negotiations – rather than the ending – that might take place at a later date.
So far, there have been no formal talks between the two sides. BJP leaders indicate that they would have a clearer idea of the situation when Mehbooba meets her party’s leaders on January 31 and could hear from her side soon after.
A meeting between Mehbooba and BJP chief Amit Shah is also expected once there is a broad agreement on the terms of forming the government. The BJP does not expect Mehbooba to pull out of the alliance that was stitched together by her father in the immediate future.
But there is some recognition that the PDP chief – who does not want to leave a political vacuum that separatist groups such as the Hurriyat occupy – may not be as flexible as her father.
“I think both of us will have limited elbow room but will have to manoeuvre within the available space without stepping on each other’s toes,” a source said.
A commitment to withdraw Afspa from any part of Kashmir is expected to be vociferously opposed by the armed forces which had scuttled a similar plan proposed by former home minister P Chidambaram.
The Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act was enacted in disturbed areas of the state with effect from July 1990. The act is operational in the districts of Anantnag, Baramulla, Badgam, Kupwara, Pulwama and Srinagar since July 1990 and in of Jammu, Kathua, Udhampur, Poonch, Rajouri and Doda districts from August 2001.
BJP leaders argue that de-notifying the “disturbed areas” essentially has to be a decision based on the security assessment and should not be mixed with politics.
“There is already a mechanism to deal with it,” one of them said, pointing that at best the proposal could be put before the security establishment and a decision “left to their wisdom”.
In the “agenda for alliance”, that the two sides drew before forming the government, it was agreed that the coalition government will examine the need for de-notifying “disturbed areas” and enable the Union government to take a final view on the continuation of Afspa in these areas.
The alliance document also maintained that 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.