“Friendship between India and Pakistan was the biggest dream of Mufti Mohammad Sayeed. We believe that the moment of glory for Mufti Sahib was when our Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Lahore. He (Mufti) was monitoring it from his death bed,” PDP leader Naeem Akhtar said, soon after a five-hour meeting in which Mehbooba Mufti, daughter and heir, was authorised to take a final decision on whether to continue their alliance with the BJP.
Akhtar perhaps forgot to--or chose not to--mention that Mufti Sayeed had another dream: that of bringing the two diverse regions of Jammu and Kashmir closer. Both are demographically apart and therefore also at sharp political variance with each other. Jammu backs the BJP and the Valley voted in large numbers to keep the BJP out. That the Valley fears the abrogation of Article 370 that gives the sensitive border state a special status is well known.
Despite the hard political reality that makes the BJP and the PDP strange bedfellows, the Mufti was clear that joining hands was the only way forward. In the middle of nail-biting negotiations between the two, Sayeed flew out to Mumbai to play a few hands of bridge. There, in the financial capital, he also chose to do a few interviews, one of which was with this paper. He shared his thought process and did not mince his words.
“Ideologically we are North Pole and South Pole but the state has given us a historic opportunity to unite Jammu with Kashmir and to unite the state with India. It is important to connect the two regions and I believe I can do it. I am saying, delegate the responsibility to me. VP Singh used to tell me that politics is the art of possibility and of managing contradictions. Let me tell you on record, I want to leave a legacy. I see an opportunity to mend the two divide between the two regions of Jammu and Kashmir and I will form a government only with the BJP, or I’m out.”
National Conference leader Omar Abdullah had offered to support the PDP after the fractured mandate in the state but Sayeed was clear. The clarity was there despite his knowing that his daughter Mehbooba, who is singularly responsible for the creation and the electoral success of the PDP, was dead set against an alliance with the right-wing part that not only often spoke of abrogating Article 370 but also against the dilution of the draconian armed forces special powers act that the entire Valley has agitated about.
For Mehbooba, the tie-up with the BJP is an anti-thesis of everything the PDP stands for and she knows that it costing the party. Her stronghold of south Kashmir is also the area from where young and educated boys are taking to militancy and she knows, like most in her party do, that this is partly if not entirely a reaction to what is seen as an ‘unholy’ alliance.
The soon-to-be first woman chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir is taking her time in formalising the arrangement but that is the only path she can choose for the alliance is a ‘legacy’ (to repeat Sayeed’s word) she has to take forward. It is literally like his last wish. Mehbooba may, in the future, weigh her political options but this is certainly not the time to pull the plug. Mufti Saeed’s death can definitely not be the reason.