The controversial statement of Mufti Sayeed crediting Pakistan, terrorists and separatists for allowing peaceful assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir is perhaps an attempt of the septuagenarian leader to retrieve the goodwill that he seems to have lost in the Kashmir Valley after joining hands with Prime Minister Narendera Modi to form for the first time a government with the support of the BJP. Mufti made the statement immediately after becoming the chief minister of the state on Sunday.
Mufti's statement has not only put the BJP in the state and at national-level in an awkward position but has also drawn critical reactions.
Mufti joining hands with Modi has not been relished by majority of the people in Kashmir who had turned out in unprecedented numbers during the recent assembly elections to vote for Mufti and ensure that the BJP did not win even a single seat in the Valley. In the present political scenario the Mufti is perhaps aware that it might be a difficult task regaining confidence of his people and as such he had probably issued the statement to convey that there was no change of mind in him.
With a long political experience behind him, the Mufti cannot be considered naïve to have issued the statement immediately after re-assuming power after nine years. It is believed that the Mufti does not take even a tiny step without visualising its long term political implications and in the present scenario he has perhaps tried to send a signal across to his Kashmiri constituency that even though he was standing with Modi but there was no shift in his old stand.
Political observers point out that by issuing the highly controversial statement, the Mufti has again shown the green rag in an effort to reconsolidate his position in the Valley that has started eroding due to his alliance with the BJP.
Reports indicate that there were no celebrations in Mufti's hometown of Bijbehara in the Anantnag district after he took oath as chief minister with the support of BJP on Sunday. Except in some pockets of Kashmir, the euphoria over formation of his government was missing. This was in sharp contrast to the celebrations that erupted when he became the chief minister in 2002 with the support of the Congress and some independents.
Mass euphoria was witnessed in the Kashmir Valley as well as in many parts of Jammu when the Mufti was inducted as tourism and civil aviation minister at the Centre by the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1986. A large number of people turned out to greet him on the nearly 65-km-long route between the Srinagar airport and Anantnag when he came to the Valley for the first time after becoming the central minister.
Now only time will tell that by issuing such statements how far the Mufti succeeds in regaining his lost ground.
Social media is flooded with critical reactions on the issue. Some reactions claim that the Mufti should have left it to the ministry of external affairs to make comments on international issues, particularly concerning Pakistan. A comment made on the social media points out that "a CM of an Indian state complementing Pakistan for peaceful conduct of elections in his state, is casting doubts on the ability of the Indian government to hold violence-free elections."
Another reaction was "a single word is sufficient to reveal one's heart. In my opinion he said it willfully to please those elements whom he sells double currency demilitarization, self-rule like slogans and received votes from them in bulk to keep BJP at bay…."
It is worth mentioning that in the normal circumstances there was no reason for Mufti praising Pakistan and terrorists for allowing free and fair elections in J&K as Pakistan had left no stone unturned to vitiate the atmosphere during the election days by indulging in unprovoked firing and shelling the border villages on the Indian side for about three months. Not only residents of several border villages were forced to flee their homes during the Pakistani firing, but a dozen civilians and BSF personnel also lost their lives in these incidents.
Moreover, the Pakistan-backed terrorists not only called for boycott of the assembly elections but also indulged in violence in which certain senior military officers laid their lives.
The controversy has set the stage for a lively debate on the issue in the coming days.
(The writer is a veteran journalist based at Jammu. Views expressed are his personal)