Government Formation: PDP at the crossroads

Government Formation: PDP at the crossroads
By Masood Ali Mir 
It is well over a month now since Mufti Mohammad Sayeed passed away and the state of Jammu and Kashmir is yet to have an elected government; although the people of the state are not new to Governor’s rule, as Article 356 of the Indian Constitution has been invoked various times. In Jammu and Kashmir, people are used to Governor’s rule and are not too worried about its extension, yet, still political parties, other than the Peoples Democratic Party, seem a bit concerned, as the National Conference leadership, Omar Abdullah and Farooq Abdullah, have talked about it in the media.
After the death of Mufti Sayeed, the PDP was quick and united in electing Mehbooba Mufti as the leader of the party. Now, after conveying more than a couple of party meetings, the PDP is yet to decide where to go. Yes, it is true that the party has faced havoc when it lost the party patron and it is certainly in shock. But it has to come out now and decide the future course of action for the betterment of the party and the general masses. The PDP is certainly in deep dilemma and at a crossroads with regard to future plans. Probably, three dilemmas are most visible, which have forced the party to delay the government formation.
The first one is whether to continue the alliance for the next five years  with the Bharatiya Janata Party or not. As a responsible coalition partner, it is the fundamental responsibility of the PDP to continue the alliance and to complete the full term on which the two parties had agreed via the “Agenda of Alliance”. The delay in government formation indicates that something is wrong between the two coalition partners. In the media, the PDP leadership has repeatedly said the party wants a strict adherence to the common minimum program which indicates that the national party has not proven ‘faithful’ to the PDP during the last ten months.
As the two parties are totally different in their ideologies, it was the common minimum program which brought them close, and it becomes very difficult for the other to maintain its identity in the long shadow of the former. The common minimum program in the form of “Agenda of  Alliance” was very categorical with regard to certain issues like the return of power projects, revocation of AFSPA, release of political prisoners, development of equal regional aspirations, restoration of Indo-Pak dialogue etc. But hardly anything noteworthy was done during late Mufti’s tenure. Against this, the BJP raised a hue and cry when the Hurriyat leader Masrat Alam Bhat was released. Nothing substantial has been either proposed or accepted on the other issues by the BJP, rather it dominated the PDP on each and every issue.
The Village Defence Committee issue too was hijacked by the BJP and the deputy chief minister Nirmal Singh behaved more in a Sangh Parivar way than being a custodian of the law and order of the state. More than this, the absence of BJP ministers on the Martyrs’ Day (13th July), the thrashing of Engineer Rashid over the beef party,  and the permission to Shiv Sainiks for an open ‘March with Arms’ in Jammu city made the position of the PDP awkward. Every decision of the late Mufti got a negative response, be it the smart city status to Srinagar or the AIIMS to Kashmir . It is this approach of the BJP which is motivating the PDP to have a rethink over the coalition. There is an element within the PDP, although a small one, which openly criticises the sharing of power with the BJP.
 The second dilemma for Mehbooba and her party is whether to break the coalition or not. If they break the coalition, the party has to either sit on the opposition benches or go for new elections. To be in the opposition is easy, but to have new elections is more difficult. If elections are held, it will be judged on the performance of the ten month tenure of Mufti Sayeed.  The PDP will also face the anti incumbency and will be held responsible for the current political uncertainty.  It will be a difficult situation for PDP, as it has to explain why it shared power with the BJP and if it did so, why it backtracked.
The other three major political parties Congress, National Conference and BJP will lock horns against the PDP and it will be an election of PDP versus the rest. But, perhaps it is better to face it today than tomorrow.
The last dilemma, which seems minimal, is to have a new coalition partner. This too is not easy as on one side the Congress does not have the required numbers and, if formed, a government with it will be a very weak one. On the other hand, the National conference and PDP are regional opponents and there is hardly any Bihar model of understanding between Mehbooba and Omar, and if this happens it may also alienate the people of Jammu region, and governance may not be too smooth.
There is a section of people who are power hungry, and hence support the PDP-BJP coalition and are trying their best to make it continue. They are of the opinion that if the PDP will break the alliance, it will create an impression among people that the late Mufti was wrong in choosing the coalition partner, hence in order to prove him right the PDP has to continue the coalition with the BJP. Two wrongs never make a right. And when an old leader is no more, it is Mehbooba who has to make a new beginning and create a new place, position and status for herself and her party.
Every passing day gives rise to new rumours in the state about government formation and the future of the PDP-BJP alliance.  Although the PDP is caught between the devil and the deep blue sea, it would be better for it to decide and come out with a clear decision  to end the political uncertainty in our state.
—The writer is a freelance journalist