HOPES of the PDP and BJP joining hands once again to form the government in J&K have receded despite a meeting in Delhi on Thursday between BJP president Amit Shah and PDP leader Mehbooba Mufti, with both sides refusing to budge from their stated positions.
Sources close to Mehbooba said the Centre should first “restore the credibility of the agenda of alliance agreed upon by the two parties before joining hands in January last year”. BJP general secretary Ram Madhav, however, said the PDP’s demands would be considered only after the state government is formed.
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According to PDP sources, Shah wanted Mehbooba to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi, too. “But Mehbooba’s stand is clear. She thinks she can meet the Prime Minister only after the BJP leadership agrees to act upon the issues she has raised,’’ they said.
“We are not accepting any new demands,” said BJP general secretary Ram Madhav. “Even if there is any demand it can be considered after the formation of the government. But forming a government on the basis of conditions is not possible,” he added.
A senior PDP leader, however, said all his party wants is the implementation of the joint agenda. According to him, the core issues involved are:
* Timeframe for implementing the agenda, and an understanding on how to fasttrack the process.
* Focus on initiatives mentioned on agenda: return of power projects, relocation of army from pre-agreed and designated spots, development of Jammu and Srinagar as smart cities and enhancement of flood relief.
* Create an environment to enable good governance, and not let the situation be one of PDP vs BJP or J&K versus Centre.
“As shown by the delay in flood relief, the general perception is that the Centre hasn’t reciprocated. All the initiatives that we want are meant to dispel the perception that Delhi is insensitive to the special needs of J&K and to restore the trust,” said PDP sources.
On the other side, a senior BJP leader went to the extent of saying that “the efforts to form the government are off”.
Madhav, meanwhile, was clear. “There is no change in our stand. We have told them that a new government should be formed on the basis on conditions that existed earlier. As far as we are concerned the package existed, the promises existed, the ground realities were the same. Only difference was that Mufti sahib (former Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed) has passed away. We should have moved ahead. The PDP should have chosen someone as the Chief Minister,” said Madhav.
However, sources close to Mehbooba said she first wants the BJP leadership to “reciprocate to the trust reposed by her father in them”.
“She believes that Mufti sahib took a difficult political step to ally with BJP for three reasons: respect the divided mandate in J&K, bring areas of Jammu where BJP won closer to Kashmir where PDP got its seats, and faith in the agenda of alliance. He believed that the alliance would help bridge the gap between Delhi and Kashmir,” said sources.
“Mehbooba is convinced that the only way the devastating political fallout of the alliance with BJP can be halted to some extent is to ensure that the alliance partner doesn’t get a chance to push its political agenda. (That agenda) will marginalise PDP and make it difficult for Mehbooba to run a government,” they added.
Explaining the reasons for this mistrust, sources said, “Look at how they (BJP) treated Mufti sahib. He was waiting for a word on funds for flood relief even while on his deathbed.”
They also highlighted the incident of a man from Kashmir being “burnt alive (in Udhampur) on the pretext that he was carrying beef in his truck”; BJP front organisations approaching courts on Kashmir’s special status; and the alliance partner questioning the sanctity of the J&K flag.
“This is why Mehbooba wants all ambiguity to go on political and governance issues before she forms the government,” said sources.
Sources close to Mehbooba said there is “huge pressure on her from every quarter, including several party leaders and former ministers” to form the government but added that “it is unlikely she will budge”.
“She knows she has a serious challenge, either way. It is politically impossible to explain the alliance to people in Kashmir. Look at the situation across the country, they (BJP) seem to be more interested in whether Muslims chant a slogan or what they eat than anything else,” they said.
Sources, however, admitted that the alternative was “equally risky”. “The alliance has discredited PDP among its vote bank and a re-election could well be a disaster,’’ said a PDP leader.