Kashmir Crisis: Is it “game over” for Mehbooba Mufti and beginning of the disintegration of the People’s Democratic Party?
In a sudden unexpected move, the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) on June 19, withdrew its support from the coalition government, snapping ties with partner People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in Jammu and Kashmir. Such was the secrecy about the decision, that even the state’s Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti didn’t have an inkling of what was coming.
PDP insiders say that CM Mehbooba came to know about the decision through chief secretary BB Vyas. “She was at her office, Vyasji had received a call from Raj Bhawan. He (Vyas) told her that the Governor wants to talk to her,” he said.
This is not the first time in Kashmir politics that a government has toppled with such suddenness. Back in 1984, the Cental government was successful in toppling the government of the flamboyant Farooq Abdullah surreptitiously through his brother-in-law late Ghulam Mohammad Shah along with other 17 members of the legislative assembly (MLAs). Farooq was left fuming.
Mehbooba, before submitting her resignation to the state’s Governor NN Vohra called a press conference hurriedly at her Fair View residence at Gupkar, the erstwhile dreaded torture centre Papa II.
Mehbooba reiterated her earlier argument of forging alliance with the BJP for “taking J&K out of sufferings”.
In an apparent reference to the Center’s ‘iron fist’ policy on Kashmir of which she had earlier also been a part, Mehbooba said: “Our aim was reconciliation and dialogue as we have always believed that muscular policy would not work in the state and J&K can’t be treated as enemy territory”.
This particular statement from Mehbooba, many believe, has a semblance with her earlier statements, when she marked her presence on the political map of Kashmir. This was when ‘mourning’ was her politics. When she started her journey way back in 1998, she used to visit funerals of civilians and even of militants including top commanders during that period of ‘Ikhwan raj’ in Kashmir.
“She used to talk about things others hesitated to talk about. She talked about dignity, human rights and revocation of draconian laws such as Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) at her rallies,” said PDP worker Ghulam Nabi from south Kashmir’s Bijebehara. He added that once PDP came to power, and particularly after second term, “all this went into cold storage”.
At the press conference, Mehbooba was more like her earlier self when she championed that her government was successful in safeguarding special status of the state, releasing over 10,000 prisoners and bringing unilateral ceasefire to Kashmir.
However, political pundits in the valley say it is ‘game over’ for her. “As a party, PDP is in a very precarious situation given the ever-growing resistance against it. First it was against the party (PDP) forming a coalition with BJP and then against continuous killings particularly in the party’s bastion in south Kashmir. The party is left with no excuse,” said a senior scribe who has years of experience reporting from Kashmir.
He also added that Mehbooba rose through the ranks in the state because of her politics around human rights.
Now in her tenure, particularly in 2016, protests that erupted after the killing of 22-year-old militant commander Burhan Wani, over 100 people according to rights groups were killed, while scores were blinded with pellets. After all this, her “politics around human rights” card will hardly have an impact anymore.
There would be another worry for Mehbooba now to keep her party intact, says a PDP insider. “It’s going to be a real challenge for her now to keep her party intact”.
Mehbooba had garnered support during the 2014 elections to keep communal forces, particularly the BJP, at bay. However, later she forged alliance with that same party saying: “It is to respect the mandate of the people”, though regional party and its ally including National Conference and national party Congress had offered their support to her party.
On certain occasions in the recent past, Mehbooba could also feel the intensity of the Kashmir situation. For example, last year on her party’s foundation day, Mehbooba in a stern message to the Centre had said, on the arrest of separatist leaders at that time: “You can’t kill an idea, you can’t jail an idea, you can’t cage an idea”.
Here is a timeline of PDP-BJP government in Jammu and Kashmir
*December, 28, 2014: Results of assembly polls declared, verdict hung. PDP gets 28 seats, BJP 25, NC 15 and Congress 12 in the 87-member assembly. Late PDP patron Mufti Mohammad Sayeed thanks United Jehad Council and Hurriyat for smooth elections in the state.
* December 28: Governor’s rule imposed in Jammu and Kashmir.
* PDP and BJP hold talks for an alliance. After hectic consultations agenda of alliance is formed. It takes two months for finalising common minimum programme, the Agenda of Alliance.
* March 1, 2015: Mufti Mohammad Sayeed sworn in as the chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir for the second time. Governor’s rule ends.
* January 7, 2016: Mufti Mohammad Sayeed passes away at AIIMS, New Delhi.
* January, 8, 2016: Governor’s rule imposed again as PDP-BJP fail to come to an arrangement for continuing with the alliance.
* PDP expresses reservations on the implementation of the agenda of alliance, shows reluctance to lead the government. Governor’s rule continues.
* March 22: Mehbooba Mufti meets Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi. After the meeting, announces she is satisfied with the assurances from the Centre.
* April 4: Mehbooba Mufti takes oath as the first woman chief minister of the state. Governor’s rule ends.
* April 5: Crisis erupts in National Institute of Technology Srinagar where local students clash with non-local students following a cricket match between India and Pakistan.
* July 8: Hizbul Mujahideen ‘commander’ Burhan Wani killed in an encounter with government forces in Kokernag area of south Kashmir’s Anantnag district.
PDP-BJP differ over the killing of Wani as it leads protests resulting in killing of over 100 people as per rights groups.
* May 9, 2018: Mehbooba Mufti calls all-party meeting in the wake of rise in civilian killings during clashes near encounter sites.
After the meeting, the chief minister calls for a Ramzan ceasefire on the pattern of one announced during the tenure of the then Prime Minister A B Vajpayee in 2003.
BJP leader and deputy chief minister Kavinder Gupta opposes it vehemently.
* May 17: Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh announces month-long suspension of operations in Jammu and Kashmir.
* June 17: Rajnath Singh announces Centre’s decision to not extend the unilateral ceasefire, saying anti militancy operations will resume in the valley in the wake of increase in militancy related incidents during the ceasefire period.
* June 18: All BJP ministers summoned to Delhi by the party high command.
* June 19: BJP pulls out of its coalition government with the PDP. Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti tenders resignation. State heads towards Governor’s rule again.