PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti’s decision to put off her oath-taking ceremony and the threat to go it alone in Jammu and Kashmir may have strengthened her position within the party, but it runs the risk of further deepening the divide between her and Delhi.
Leaders of both the Peoples Democratic Party and Bharatiya Janata Party will meet Jammu and Kashmir governor NN Vohra in Jammu on Tuesday to discuss the issue of government formation.
Vohra had on Monday prodded the PDP as well as alliance partner BJP to clarify their stands on ending the uncertainty.
The state has been under governor’s rule since the death of Mufti Mohammad Sayeed on January 7 and Mehbooba on Sunday sought definite assurances on tricky issues from the BJP as well as the Centre. Speculation swirled that the 10-month-old alliance could collapse after the PDP hardened its stand.
The BJP brass has been careful not to make any statement suggesting any strain in ties, but Mehbooba’s comments that she had to lie to her ailing father about the relief package being provided to the state and that he had made an unpopular decision by aligning with the BJP have particularly peeved the cadre.
On Monday, BJP state leaders, who rushed to Delhi to meet the party president Amit Shah and general secretary Ram Madhav, were emphatic they will continue with the agenda of alliance, but indicated that the current stalemate has cast a shadow on the tie-up.
“The BJP has promised to keep its end of the bargain, there are many issues that are governed by the agenda of alliance and the party has assured the PDP that it will fulfil those. But the recent statements (made against the BJP) have upset party workers, as we remain committed to delivering on the promises made at the time of aligning with the late Mufti Sayeed,” a BJP functionary told Hindustan Times.
He said the BJP wants the current crisis to blow over, but cautioned, “there are many issues in the CMP that could be derailed if the BJP also decides to dig its heels in.”
On whether Mehbooba’s comments have further distanced her from the BJP, the functionary was quick to add, “disagreements are a part of the democratic setup.”
At the time of Mehboob’s elevation as Mufti’s successor, many within the PDP were sceptical of her ability to forge ties with the Centre, given her strained relations with the BJP. Several of her party colleagues had underlined that unlike her father, who had friends across the political spectrum and an independent equation with Delhi, she was yet to warm up to the idea of collaborating with the ideologically-opposed BJP.
While the BJP brass was quick to welcome her redesignation as party supremo, the reaction from the cadres was rather lukewarm, mainly on account of the sympathy she had shown to separatists in the past. Her involvement in securing the release of separatist leaders from house arrest in August last year had caused a hiccup in the early days of the alliance.
“To run the administration efficiently, she will need Delhi’s support. She needs the Centre’s assistance to rehabilitate those affected by the floods, she needs jobs for the unemployed, there is infrastructure development that will need heavy funding,” said a political analyst in Jammu.
“This apart, the state needs the Centre to work on outstanding issues like withdrawal of AFSPA, which the PDP has promised and peace at the borders; so the leadership will do well to build a relationship of trust with the BJP,” the analyst added.
Madhu Kishwar, academician and a long-time friend of Mehbooba, said that the PDP leader is needlessly creating a stalemate on the specious ground that alliance with the BJP is not popular in Kashmir.
“In any case, the electoral verdict gives the PDP no other choice because Jammu region has given clean sweep to the BJP. By raking up the issue again and again, the PDP is strengthening its own enemies who want this government to collapse,” she said.
Kishwar also made a reference to the time when the PDP pulled out from the alliance with the Congress.
“This is reminiscent of the time when the PDP brought down Ghulam Nabi Azad government over Amarnath row which it raked up on the basis of distorted facts. That led to permanent estrangement with Hindu majority Jammu region,” Kishwar pointed out.
Political watchers cautioned that the BJP too could take a hard line, leading to the undoing of the alliance.
Even though the National Conference leadership has denied reaching out to the BJP for a possible alliance, political circles in the state are abuzz that new alliances could be on the horizon if the PDP-BJP combine fails to bury their hatchet.