BJP breaks alliance with PDP: How Ram Madhav and Amit Shah caught J&K leaders off guard
The party will now prepare for fresh elections.
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The Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) decision to pull out of the three-year-old alliance with People's Democratic Party (PDP) in Jammu and Kashmir caught everyone unawares, including senior BJP ministers in the state.
The party high command kept its cards close to its chest right till the last moment.
So, when 15 J&K BJP representatives arrived on the morning of June 19 in Delhi, all they could tell the media was that the meeting had been called solely to discuss "organisational structure ahead of 2019 parliamentary elections".
The leaders were, however, sceptical of the urgent summon, especially considering the fact that BJP president Amit Shah was scheduled to visit Jammu on June 23.
Since "no clear agenda" was set for the meeting on June 19, the BJP representatives were not particularly apprehensive.
Surprisingly, even NSA Ajit Doval's unusual visit to Amit Shah also did not cause any stir about might follow.
Former deputy CM Kavinder Gupta went on record to say that while prevailing tensions in the state will be discussed in the meeting, the alliance will stay for now.
Quite clearly most leaders remained in the dark about the decision till it was announced.
Only Ravinder Raina, state BJP chief, claimed the agenda of the meeting was to ensure the next chief minister will be from BJP and the party's plan to contest alone in 2019. He evaded questions on whether BJP will continue with PDP and maintained that party's decision will be final.
By late afternoon, the agenda of the meeting became clear - end alliance with the PDP.
What happened at the meeting?
According to the leaders present at the meeting that took place at the BJP headquarters, the J&K leaders reached the party office by 11.40am and were asked to wait for a while till senior leaders arrived.
Their wait lasted for approximately half hour.
Senior party leader Ram Madhav entered the hall and seated himself among his party colleagues. Madhav then informed party leaders that after long deliberations, the party had decided it was best to end the alliance.
Madhav cited security issues and state interests as reasons why the alliance with PDP was untenable. He then enquired if any leader disagreed with the decision and even paused for interjections.
Given Madhav's stature in the party and his hold on the party's politics in the state, no objections were obviously raised. It was then that Shah joined the meeting and greeted party leaders.
The ministers and general secretaries announced unanimous support to Madhav and Shah and their decision to sever ties with the PDP.
The BJP has 25 MLAs in J&K.
Madhav is reported to have even asked a senior leader if November would be best suited for fresh elections.
Since Governor's Rule usually lasts from three to six months, elections could be held around November.
The state leaders were asked about party's preparations in the state given that elections are now inevitable. State leaders have requested for a few days to get back to the central leadership with a concrete answer.
The BJP is likely to start preparing for elections right away.
When party leaders returned to the J&K House, Kavinder Gupta told reporters: "Central leadership took the final decision. Governor's Rule is the best option. We will emerge stronger."
Despite not being consulted over the move, BJP representatives have largely welcomed the break-up.
The BJP plans to now propel a strong nationalist image and brand itself as a party which refuses to bow down to other parties and is willing to pull out of the government when nation's sovereignty is in danger.
The BJP lost massive ground in Jammu in the last few months. It was becoming difficult for the party to defend itself on issues of illegal foreign settlements, border tensions and indiscriminate killings in border towns.
The alienation being felt by the people in the Jammu and Ladakh regions had reached a tipping point.
The party now hopes to gain the lost ground. It will be interesting to see if this pullout from the government proves to be a masterstroke for the BJP.
Whatever it is, it won't be easy.