By K.N. Pandita
Mahbooba Mufti’s predilection for projecting herself as a Kashmiri alienated from India is her old gimmick. In all probability, New Delhi is more amused than concerned about the tantrum she has begun to exude regarding conditions for forming coalition government with BJP after the demise of her father.
Peoples Democratic Party was born from the womb of militancy when it was at its peak in Kashmir in 1999. After the fall of Janata government in New Delhi, late Mufti Sayeed was left stranded in the musical chair of Kashmir politics. He had left Congress long back and Janata Party, after its meteoric rise, soon died its natural death.
He found the rise of militancy in Kashmir opening up a chance for him to enter Kashmir politics from the backdoor. An adept in the nitty-gritty of local politics of Kashmir, he wooed separatists, militants and pro-Pak elements holding out to them the lollypop called ‘self-rule.’ What that actually meant on the ground, neither he cared to explain nor his new-found followers in PDP were seriously interested to know. The loud promise of giving a corruption-free administration had subtle NC angle. He played anti-dynastic rule card while grooming his daughter for bigger political role.
His daughter Mahbooba, being youthful and impulsive, played in the hands of separatists. In fact she became the link between the separatists and her father. Anti-India dramatics endeared her to separatists and she made startling success in strengthening her party not only in Kashmir but in Jammu region also.
The rise of PDP as counterbalance to entrenched National Conference was something unexpected for New Delhi. With each passing day Congress was feeling uneasy with NC. Political commentators and policy planners in New Delhi thought it a healthy development that would go a long way in strengthening the roots of democracy in Kashmir. No wonder, therefore, if PDP received covert support from New Delhi for aspiring to become a formidable rival to National Conference. The late Mufti was not serious about raking up the issue of Kashmir’s political finality. But Mahbooba, as the chief organizer for the party, drew good mileage out of India bashing antics which New Delhi chose to overlook in the totality of Kashmir politics and for obvious reasons.
The separatists and secessionists as well as the protagonists of militancy want their pound of flesh now when Mufti Sayeed is no more on the scene. As long as he was there, he had, through his Machiavellian balancing act, kept them under leash. Mahbooba has neither the depth nor maneuverability of her father.
Additionally, hawks within the PDP are aspiring for plum portfolios as they fix their eyes on eighty thousand crore package announced by the Prime Minister for J&K. With the exit of Mufti, anti-corruption roadblock has been put aside.
Calling the Agreement of Alliance a sacred document on the one hand and dumping it and opening new negotiation for government formation exposes PDP’s dichotomy. The rhetoric of “trust deficit” with the Centre has no takers. Recall that Mufti Sahib had said that no Prime Minister of India was as generous and frugal for Kashmir as Narendra Modi has been. This shows that Mufti Sahib’s daughter has the least respect for what her father stood for. She has become a prisoner of circumstances and she is face to face with the Frankenstein she created.
As far Jammu BJP, it has had a chequered history. After dismissing the old party structure on the eve of last parliamentary elections, and the massive mandate from Jammu electorate, people trusted that the time had come when discrimination against Jammu region would be done away with. Unwittingly, misled by acquiescent politics, New Delhi’s sudden and rapid shift in AIIMS episode did unimaginable damage to the credibility of BJP in Jammu. Despite desperate damage controlling efforts by powerful leadership, matters never improved. Mishandling of this issue revealed how much immature BJP was in understanding the nuances of Kashmir politics.
Jammu BJP gave more cause for despair. Nothing tangible has been done in the case of PoK refugees. Moreover, dim-witted silence of BJP MLAs in the legislative assembly over the row on concentrated rehabilitation of valley displaced persons confirmed BJP’s tremendous capacity for servility and submission to the party that had majority in the house only theoretically and not demonstrably. BJP constituencies in Jammu found their election fervor back to square zero.
Now that PDP is dictating terms and listing conditions – most of these humiliating, the ball is in the court of BJP. If it still remains glued to policy of acquiescence, then all that one can say is please roll up the map of Kashmir, you don’t need to look at it any more.