J-K set for Governor’s rule as BJP-PDP alliance disintegrates, Mehbooba Mufti resigns as CM
Jammu and Kashmir was set for a spell of governor’s rule after chief minister Mehbooba Mufti resigned on Tuesday in a rapid turn of events after the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ended its almost 40-month-old alliance with the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and withdrew its support to her government.
Late on Tuesday, Governor NN Vohra sent a recommendation to the ministry of home affairs for imposition of Governor’s rule in the state. The move which will require the formal assent of President Ram Nath Kovind, who is travelling in Europe and Latin America and was on Tuesday night on a flight from Greece to Suriname. An MHA spokesperson confirmed that the ministry had received the Governor’s report.
The end of the BJP-PDP coalition, on a day of intensive political action in New Delhi and Srinagar, came two days after the Union government decided to resume counter-insurgency operations in Kashmir, suspended for a month for Ramzan. Coming a year ahead of national and state elections, it presages a new period of uncertainty in India’s most sensitive state, wracked by almost three decades of militancy.
BJP president Amit Shah first met national security advisor Ajit Doval, a key policy maker on Kashmir, on Tuesday morning, said a BJP leader familiar with the meeting. They discussed the situation in the state.
Shah and other top national BJP leaders then met all the BJP ministers in the Jammu and Kashmir state government and the party’s state unit president, who had been called to the capital on Tuesday afternoon.
Ram Madhav, BJP general secretary and the party’s key negotiator on Kashmir affairs, then held a press conference where he claimed that BJP had formed government with PDP to respect the electoral mandate of 2014. The election had thrown up a hung assembly with the PDP winning a majority of the seats in the Kashmir Valley and the BJP in the Jammu region.
Madhav said the Narendra Modi government at the Centre had supported the state on both law and order and economic development; and had even appointed an interlocutor on Kashmir – Dineshwar Sharma , a former director of the Intelligence Bureau
But he state government has failed in addressing the core issues in Kashmir, Madhav said. “The security scenario has deteriorated, causing serious concern about the protection of basic fundamental rights of life, free speech. Daylight murder of a respected editor like Shujat Bukhari in the heart of Srinagar city is an indicator to the deterioration of the situation and the extent of radicalisation,” he said, referring to the June 14 murder of the senior journalist by suspected terrorists.
Madhav also accused the government of being unresponsive to the needs of Jammu and Ladakh, adding that the situation made it untenable for the BJP to continue in government.
Mehbooba Mufti was busy handling government files at her office in the civil secretariat when she was told of the BJP’s decision. A person familiar with the matter said it was the Jammu and Kashmir chief secretary who broke the news to her. Taken by surprise, she had a quick meeting with close aides, and subsequently held a press conference.
“We did not form this alliance for power. I submitted my resignation to the Governor and told him that we are not looking to explore any other alliance,” she said in Srinagar. “One can’t treat Jammu and Kashmir as enemy territory – a muscular policy can’t succeed here.”
Explaining her remarks, a key aide to Mufti said on condition of anonymity, “The BJP wants to appears hardline on security for its base in Jammu and elsewhere in the country because they thought they were being seen as ineffectual. They wanted us to be more strident. But we were losing ground. There were contradictions.”
The arithmetic of the Jammu and Kashmir assembly does not lend itself to an easy alternative. The 87-member house has 28 MLAs from PDP, 25 from BJP, 15 from the National Conference, 12 from the Congress, and the rest from smaller groups and independents.
NC leader Omar Abdullah was quick to accuse the BJP and PDP of pushing the state to the precipice.
“We didn’t have the mandate in the last election, we don’t have it now. We have not approached anyone (for a tie-up) nor are we going to,” he said, demanding early elections in the state; the people must have a chance to choose their government, he said.
Congress president Rahul Gandhi tweeted, “The opportunistic BJP-PDP alliance set fire to J&K, killing many innocent people including our brave soldiers. It cost India strategically and destroyed years of UPA’s (United Progressive Alliance’s) hard work. The damage will continue under President’s rule. Incompetence, arrogance and hatred always fails.”
Senior Congress leader and former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Ghulam Nabi Azad said he had always maintained the alliance had been a Himalayan blunder and ruled out support to the PDP.
With neither the PDP nor the NC staking a claim for forming another government , the doors for an elected executive within the current configuration immediately seemed closed.