Why PDP’s ship is sinking in Kashmir waters

Off the record, some top PDP party leaders agree that they committed a "Himalayan blunder" by forming coalition government with the BJP.

 |  4-minute read |   20-08-2015
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On March 1 this year, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed took over as Jammu and Kashmir’s chief minister after the top guns of his "soft-separatist" People's Democratic Party (PDP) held several rounds of post-poll negotiations with the ultranationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to finally enter into an alliance with it to "govern" the sensitive region for next six years.

The PDP-BJP alliance came as a huge shock to Kashmiris dwelling in the Kashmir valley. Most of them perceived and continue to perceive this partnership as "unholy" and believe that the PDP has committed a "political suicide" by facilitating BJP’s entry into Kashmir despite the fact that in terms of electoral arithmetic the Hindu nationalist party drew a blank from both Kashmir and Ladakh. The BJP, though, won 25 Assembly segments from Jammu region.

In its campaign for the 2014 Jammu and Kashmir legislative Assembly elections, the PDP leaders focused on highlighting the National Conference’s "bad governance", NC’s "dismal" human rights track record during its six-year long rule, facilitating India-Pakistan dialogue to resolve Kashmir and inclusion of the Hurriyat Conference in the talks over Kashmir. The PDP leaders also kept assuring the people of Kashmir that it was the only party which was capable of stopping BJP’s "invasion", counter its Mission 44+ and deny it the access to Kashmir.

At the time of PDP-BJP government formation in March in Jammu, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed as chief minister described in detail how historic the PDP-BJP coalition was in spite of the huge ideological divergence between the two political parties. Sayeed also claimed the new coalition could be a "paradigm shift" in Kashmir’s political history. He also thanked Pakistan, Hurriyat Conference and militants for paving way and contributing to peaceful atmosphere for smooth conduct of elections in Jammu and Kashmir.

Off the record, some top PDP party leaders and members agree that they committed a "Himalayan blunder" by forming coalition government with the BJP and that they are unsure how to face voters in their respective constituencies in the next elections.

In his speech on August 15 at Srinagar’s fortified Bakshi Stadium, Sayeed reiterated that joining hands with the BJP provided an "opportunity to bring Kashmir, Jammu and Ladakh together". He also requested people not to judge him and his government too soon.

While it is a fact that five-and-a-half months (170 days) are too short a time to judge any government’s report card or performance, but it is certainly enough period to get a feel of its intentions.

In an exclusive interview with this author in Jammu, Sayeed had said that the PDP-BJP collaboration could be a "paradigm shift" in Jammu and Kashmir’s political history. He acknowledged that reconciliation with Pakistan is critical in resolving Kashmir issue; that the All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC) has a viewpoint which needs to be respected; that there is a need to engage with the pro-freedom conglomerate and to have a dialogue; that he would give space to dissent and release political prisoners; that it is important to address people’s alienation; that as chief minister he would make security forces accountable for their actions; that trans-Kashmir trade, travel and pilgrimage tourism, cross-LoC academic and cultural exchanges and the likes would pick up and help build a tranquil atmosphere; and that his government would provide good governance to the people.

Among many other things the PDP-BJP’s "Agenda of Alliance" said that apart from "strengthening the institutions" the government would provide "smart governance" to bring about "self-sustained and balanced development across all three regions of the state" and "create conditions to facilitate resolution of all issues of J&K". The coalition government’s Common Minimum Programme (CMP) also acknowledged that "in a situation where socio-political aspirations and grievances of the people have wide ranging differences, economic development on its own can neither bring about peace nor prosperity".

What has the PDP done in last six months? And why is its ship possibly sinking in Kashmir waters?

1. There has been no attempt made to formally invite Hurriyat Conference for a dialogue on Kashmir issue.

2. Given what has transpired between India and Pakistan during the last couple of months, reconciliation with Pakistan also appears bleak at the moment.

3. The flood victims of the devastating September floods of 2014 are yet to be fully rehabilitated and compensated for their huge losses, which has further angered and alienated common Kashmiris.

4. Pro-freedom leader Masarat Alam was released soon after the PDP formed government, but it succumbed under BJP and media pressure to re-arrest him only days after his release on the pretext that in a rally organised to welcome Syed Ali Geelani in Srinagar some youths waved the Pakistani flags.

5. Before the elections PDP president Mehbooba Mufti would visit families of slain militants and offer her deepest condolences and sympathies to the bereaved, but she has stopped doing so. This behaviour on her part has given an impression that she was earlier shedding "crocodile tears" to strengthen the vote bank for her party by sympathising and empathising with the families of Kashmiri militants.

Writer

Gowhar Geelani Gowhar Geelani @gowhargeelani

The writer is a journalist, columnist and analyst.

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