Dissent within Jammu and Kashmir’s ruling Peoples Democratic Party spilled out in the open on Wednesday after two senior parliamentarians stayed away from a party meeting at the chief minister’s residence amid growing unease over its coalition with the BJP.
Lok Sabha members Tariq Hamid Karra and Muzaffar Hussain Baig refused to attend a meeting called by PDP president Mehbooba Mufti to get feedback from all party office-bearers on the government’s performance and the alliance with the BJP.
The meeting comes amid souring ties between the ideologically-divergent coalition partners due to rising communal tensions in the state, especially over the contentious issue of beef ban.
Several senior PDP leaders, including Karra, have asked the party leadership to reconsider the alliance, already fraying over the J&K government’s decision to release Hurriyat leaders ahead of talks with Pakistan.
“At a time when minorities in India are looking towards a united leadership to counter the radical Hindutva elements, the PDP should not be seen cosying up to such elements for the sake of power,” he had said.
Baig, one of the founding members of the party, has also been critical of the alliance government’s performance.
The alliance ran into rough weather just days after the swearing-in, with CM Mufti Mohammad Sayeed deciding to release separatist Masarat Alam and crediting Pakistan for trouble-free polls, upsetting the BJP.
Since then, the two sides have clashed on flood relief, release of Hurriyat leaders and most recently, the communal flare-ups over the beef ban.
The Valley has been simmering after the mob lynching of Mohammad Ikhlaq in Uttar Pradesh over cow slaughter rumours and the death of a Kashmiri trucker who was allegedly attacked by right-wingers over suspicions of beef possession.
The BJP has come under searing Opposition criticism for the stand of some of its legislators on cow slaughter that has pushed deeper a wedge between Hindus and Muslims.
Beef trade has come into sharp focus since the BJP took power last year, with minority groups alleging that attempts by right-wing organisations to push for a nationwide ban were intended to polarize communities for electoral benefit.
The two parties have widely-differing stances on Article 370 that gives special status to the state and the controversial Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, which accords sweeping powers to the military – and the beef ban has only added to the tension.
“The RSS is implementing its long-held objectives in Kashmir through BJP. It is well-known that RSS has anti-Kashmir and anti-Muslim agenda. See what happened in J&K assembly,” Karra had told HT, referring to the attacks on MLA Sheikh Abdul Rashid for holding a beef party.
But the CM’s political adviser Waheed-ur-Rehman Para said the meeting was “not to discuss the alliance’’.
“Our workers were complaining about work not being done in their areas; the meeting was just to review the performance of PDP ministers,” he said.
Para, however, admitted Sayeed reassured party workers about his “decision to join hands with the BJP’’. “The chief minister said the decision was taken in a very calculated way and he was hopeful the alliance would be beneficial for the people of the state,” Para said.