Days after its leadership had a huddle with the RSS, the BJP Tuesday pulled out of the Mehbooba Mufti-led coalition government in Jammu and Kashmir, citing “the larger national interest… the deteriorating security situation”, and setting the stage for Governor’s rule in the state.
Blaming the PDP for the fall of the alliance government, BJP general secretary Ram Madhav, in the presence of the party’s J&K leaders, told reporters in New Delhi that “continuance in the government had become untenable… responsibility for this kind of scenario lies with the other side”.
“Keeping in mind the larger national interest of India’s integrity and security, keeping in mind the fact that Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India, in order to bring control over the situation prevailing in the state, we have decided that it is time the reins of power in the state be handed over to the Governor,” Ram Madhav said.
Before the announcement about the party’s withdrawal from the government, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval met BJP president Amit Shah.
Though the announcement took the political class by surprise over its timing and political calculation, the BJP sought to make the point that the “unenthusiastic response” to the Centre’s unilateral announcement of suspension of security operations in J&K during the month of Ramzan was the tipping point.
“Ceasefire was an opportunity given to the terrorists and separatists from a position of strength… but this goodwill gesture was not reciprocated,” Ram Madhav said, referring to the violence, including the killing of senior journalist Shujaat Bukhari, during the suspension of operations.
“The security scenario has deteriorated, causing serious concern about the protection of basic fundamental rights of life, free speech etc. The daylight murder of a respected editor like Shujaat Bukhari in the heart of Srinagar city is an indicator of the deterioration in the situation and the extent of radicalisation,” he said, alleging that the PDP-led government had “not been effective in addressing the core issues of the state”.
“While the security forces have done a fabulous job in the last few years in containing the situation, the primary responsibility of maintaining law and order, which is managed by the state government, showed severe shortcomings. The ruling political dispensation in the Valley has shown least interest in improving the situation,” he said, targeting the PDP.
The sudden announcement came days after the BJP leadership’s dinner interaction with RSS pracharaks in-charge of state organisations across the country. The announcement Tuesday had the RSS cadres cheering. “Fayda hi fayda hai, koi nuksaan nahin hai. 90 pratishat janta is kadam ke saath hogi. Bahut badhiya decision hai,” said an influential RSS functionary, who attended the RSS-BJP interaction last week.
The functionary, in fact, suggested that it was an electorally expedient move in an election year: “Chunao ke saal mein hi kiye jaate hain aise faisle (such decisions are taken in an election year).”
Sources in the BJP also played down theories of any risk from the political instability in the state, saying the issue would have a much larger resonance at the national level. “This move has national reverberations. It’s the beginning of the 2019 election campaign,” a BJP source said.
“For the BJP, J&K is a matter of great national importance. There is grave concern in the country over the deteriorating security situation in the state. National integration is paramount for the BJP and it can’t compromise on that question,” Ram Madhav said, squarely blaming the PDP.
Politically, the announcement Tuesday brings down the curtain on three years of a coalition between two ideologically opposed parties.
The BJP, championing the abrogation of Article 370, had entered into an alliance with PDP, which was perceived by some in the BJP as being soft towards separatists, after protracted negotiations in 2015. Both parties justified the alliance with each other, citing the fractured mandate in which the BJP won massively in the Jammu region while the PDP took the Kashmir Valley.
The alliance did not go down well with BJP cadres across the country but the party took pains to explain the political compulsions to its workers and the RSS leaders before deciding to stay the course.
“The unity and integrity of the country are an article of faith for us. We are very clear about our mission of integration of J&K. National interest is our top priority (in Kashmir), and not remaining in power,” BJP president Amit Shah was learnt to have told the party national executive in Bengaluru in April 2015.
Internally, the fall of the Mehbooba Mufti government will be received well by nationalist cadres of the BJP and RSS in an election year. But the party runs the risk of adding to the growing perception that the BJP under Narendra Modi and Amit Shah is not able to work in collaboration with partners. The PDP, for the record, becomes the second party after the TDP to part ways a year before the national elections.
The party, however, hopes to project the move as its commitment to keep national interest above party interest. It hopes to encash what it assesses are nationalist sentiments associated with Jammu & Kashmir across the country. In fact, Shah will be in Jammu on June 23, the death anniversary of party icon Syama Prasad Mookerjee.