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With the BJP-PDP tie-up over, the Centre must focus on better governance in Kashmir

Most analysts see the BJP’s decision to break away as a sign that the NDA, which will now effectively rule the state through the governor, will take a hard line on Kashmir and adopt a more muscular approach. The problem is that similar approaches haven’t worked in the past and there is no certainty that this time will be different

editorials Updated: Jun 20, 2018 16:52 IST
Hindustan Times
In this file photo dated August 26, 2016, Union home minister Rajnath Singh and Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti at a press conference in Srinagar. The BJP on June 19, 2018, pulled out of the alliance with the People's Democratic Party (PTI)

The BJP’s decision to break its alliance with the PDP was surprising from the point of view of timing, but not unexpected. The partnership between the two parties with fundamentally opposing positions on Kashmir was a miracle engendered by three parts political opportunism and one part hope, and it was clear, especially after the death of one of its chief architects, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, that it could not last.

All decisions on alliances are political, not administrative ones. But while this particular one, to break the partnership, may have been the BJP’s political decision, there is no doubt that it had the broader sanction of the central government. The party perhaps realised that with parliamentary elections less than a year away, it would have to end its alliance with the PDP sometime in the year ahead and chose to do it now.

The NDA must be credited for its decision to appoint an interlocutor, for being one of the advocates (or supporters, depending on which version one listens to) of the move to grant amnesty to stone throwers, and for agreeing to cease operations through the month of Ramzan. Its decision not to extend that cessation of hostilities was, in hindsight, an immediate precursor to the break. It should worry New Delhi that protests as well as terror attacks increased despite these efforts. And it should worry everyone that the number of domestic terror recruits has increased.

Most analysts see the BJP’s decision to break away as a sign that the NDA, which will now effectively rule the state through the governor, will take a hard line on Kashmir and adopt a more muscular approach. The problem is that similar approaches haven’t worked in the past and there is no certainty that this time will be different. Still, New Delhi can’t be faulted for wanting to take the hard line; terror attacks, unprovoked killings (including those of journalists), and the drafting of young people into terror groups must all end (or, pragmatically, reduce). There are also signs that the Centre will focus on better administration, governance, and utilisation of central funds — all of which suffered when the coalition was in power. Whether a combination of the two will suffice isn’t clear.

There’s also the issue of who New Delhi should be dealing with. Over the past year, the Hurriyat seems to have lost its hold over the state’s disenchanted young people — perhaps one of the factors pushing them into the arms of terror groups.

When something isn’t working, it makes sense to call it off, but the important question is: what now? The Centre is in complete charge of Jammu & Kashmir, but that also means it has no one else to blame if the situation deteriorates.

First Published: Jun 20, 2018 16:51 IST