When former National Conference leader Mehboob Beg withdrew his candidature from Anantnag constituency in November last year before the assembly polls, he had hailed Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) leader Mufti Mohammad Sayeed as the “only person who can halt” the BJP’s march in Kashmir.
Little did he know that nearly three months later, Sayeed would head a government that has the BJP and the PDP as coalition partners. Sayeed is likely to take oath as the next Jammu and Kashmir chief minister on March 1.
The power sharing agreement, after nearly two months of intense negotiations, has enabled the BJP to be part of a government in the Muslim-majority state for the first time. The two parties had been at each other’s throats throughout the election campaign. While Sayeed assured voters that the PDP was the only party which could stop the BJP in J-K and combat its “divisive” agenda, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his poll speeches, often mentioned “baap-beti ki sarkar” in a direct reference to the former CM and his daughter Mehbooba Mufti when he spoke of ‘corrupt regimes” in the state.
But both parties have now decided to bury the hatchet and have struck a deal that they claim would be “beneficial” to all three regions of the state — Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh.
The talks to stitch the alliance saw huge differences over contentious issues such as the Article 370 and AFSPA. Sayeed’s close aides say the leader was in favour of going with the BJP not only for “liberal funding” from the Centre but also to ensure return of peace by holding talks with Pakistan and Kashmiri separatist leaders. Sayeed rejected offers of unconditional support from the Congress and the NC, arguing that the mandate in Jammu was clearly for the BJP.
But Congress and NC leaders have debunked these claims, saying the Centre had always been “generous” towards the state and attributed the high voter turnout in Kashmir to the strong anti-BJP sentiment. A Congress leader quoted German statesman Otto von Bismarck to describe the “unholy” alliance. “Politics is the art of the possible, the attainable — the art of the next best,” Bismarck had remarked.
Perhaps Beg would today agree. For now, both parties have taken a big gamble. The BJP will find it tough to justify to its votebank any dilution of Article 370 — one of its core pre-poll promises, along with the Ram Temple at Ayodhya and the uniform civil code.