If they tie up, BJP will have to help Mufti survive gamble

  • Vinod Sharma, Hindustan Times
  • Updated: Dec 30, 2014 15:06 IST

The BJP might need to cede to the PDP a larger comfort space to bring to fruition their talks to stitch-up a numerically stable regime in Jammu and Kashmir.

There's no scope for charity or altruism in power politics. But giving PDP (Peoples Democratic Party) leader Mufti Mohammad Syed a solid post-electoral plank to sell the tie-up to his constituents in the Valley will be in national interest. For the BJP's support base in Jammu, the party's maiden stake in power should be a good quid pro quo.

If the negotiating parties reach that stage, their 'common minimum programme' for conducting the government's business has to be so crafted as to leave minimum scope for the Hurriyat Conference to dent the pro-self rule PDP's overlapping support base. That isn't just advisable but is an essential pre-requisite. The challenge to the Mufti would be greater from the separatist camp, his party having benefitted the most from the electorate's defiance of the Hurriyat's call to shun polls. The vote for the PDP was to defeat the NC-Congress and keep the BJP out of power.

To survive the gamble of aligning with a rival his voters wanted barricaded from power, isn't going to be easy for even a seasoned player like the Mufti. The pro-Pakistan, pro-Azadi separatists would continually be on the look out to catch him on the wrong foot on Article 370, the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and the omnibus Kashmir question.

The PDP has been quiet upfront in advocating dialogue with Pakistan and the separatists in the Valley. It wants talks to happen between the Centre and the Hurriyat to resolve "internal contradictions" on the Kashmir issue. But it's been loath to specify whether it backed their engagement with Islamabad--an issue on which the Narendra Modi regime called off foreign secretary level discussions with the western neighbour.

In the event of a new chapter opening in the history of J&K, the BJP-PDP could be a restraining influence on each other on issues on which they stand far apart. None expects the broader Sangh Parivar of which the BJP is part, to abandon the manifesto that got them unprecedented electoral success in Jammu, their oldest laboratory of Hindu nationalism. But lessened decibels and a changed lexicon could minimise attrition between regions that voted on religious lines.

Sentiments are easily aroused in Jammu and the Valley even on faraway happenings at home and abroad. The one to fish in troubled waters in such eventualities is the Hurriyat, adapt as it is at stirring up the streets as a substitute for its untested electoral clout. That it won't miss any such opportunity to embarrass or weaken the BJP-PDP coalition to occupy greater opposition space should be a test as much for all parties with a legislative presence in the Assembly.

The responsibility for not leaving the talking space to be dominated by separatists would have to be shared by the NC and the Congress. Albeit a lot less than the ruling combine, it will be their duty as well to showcase the opportunity that's India against the tragedy that's Pakistan.

That brings one to the seemingly utopian idea of an all-party national government if the BJP and PDP are unable to find common ground to rule Jammu and Kashmir. A six-year moratorium on contentious issues with an agenda focused on peace and development could ensure for the people the quality of life they deserve. The proposition might not seem doable. But it's surely worth a thought.

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