For years, the PDP walked a tightrope to maintain a “soft separatist” posture and create political ground for itself in Kashmir. The south was their bastion. In 2015, the party bartered this ground for power and aligned with the BJP with a PDP Chief Minister.
The collapse of the alliance has now left the PDP uncertain about its own future. “We will have to start from scratch again,’’ a senior PDP leader told The Indian Express. “If the Assembly is not dissolved, there are chances that the BJP might want to stitch a new alliance in a few months. Every party has disgruntled elements and we are not different. We may face a split too.”
The PDP’s problems are manifold. “We were in the government, which eased things for us. Now, it is going to be extremely difficult to explain our position afresh to people. As our leader pointed out how we tried to safeguard the interests of Kashmir like managing status quo on Article 370 and Article 35 A and standing as a cushion between Centre’s muscular approach and Kashmir, we will pitch this. It won’t be enough,” the leader said. “There is a lot of resentment against us on the ground. But it can be a beginning.”
According to the leader, the PDP did not run a tirade against the BJP after they pulled out of the alliance for a reason. “Both are keeping the possibility of coming together again intact,’’ the leader said. “It was very difficult for both to part ways. They (BJP) were forced by their survival. The 2019 election is approaching and they had to do this to salvage their hardline image. They were apprehensive that our agenda was harming them nationally.”
PDP sources said that once J&K is under New Delhi’s direct rule, they would go on an all-out offensive. “They will use their hardline approach in Kashmir to salvage their image for electoral dividends across the country. There may be a brief confrontation with Pakistan on the borders too,’’ the leader said.
The PDP is also prepared to wait for months to start afresh. “We will be part of the debate but not the decisions. That way, we will be able to save ourselves. They will have to take the decision now and because a much more hardline approach suits them, they will not hesitate. That way, they may vindicate us too,” the leader said.
“They will book Hurriyat leaders, which we didn’t do. There will be no dialogue with Pakistan or separatists. And once there are atrocities, more killings and more curbs, a section may start feeling that we were a buffer.”
The leader said: “The sense in our party circles is that the BJP will change our government’s position in the Supreme Court. There may be some tinkering of Article 370 too. They will also give citizenship rights to western Pakistan refugees in Jammu. All of this will become their achievements in the national election.”
The leader said that the only hope for the PDP was that “by the time the ramifications of the Centre’s new hardline policy will be visible, we can say that we had delayed it at the cost of our own survival”.
Sources in the PDP said there is “a kind of gloom in the party”. “We wish we had left the alliance on our own terms and at the time of our choosing. We had many occasions. But a large section wasn’t ready. Tassaduq Mufti had given us an opportunity to act. But in that last major meeting on the issue, there were more voices in favour of continuing than those who wanted to quit,’’ the leader said.
“There is one thing that no one in PDP will disagree about – that this is the biggest and the most difficult challenge for the party. It will be a miracle, if we survive this in the next election.”