With the Peoples Democratic Party’s Srinagar MP Tariq Hameed Karra quitting the party as well as his Lok Sabha seat, the countdown may well have begun for the PDP-BJP alliance in Jammu and Kashmir.
The coming together of the PDP-BJP in February last year was like an inter-community, inter-caste and inter-religious marriage which was not exactly fawned upon by the elders and hardliners on either side, but compulsions of realpolitik and an element of romantic optimism solemnised a union of opposites amidst much hype and fanfare.
Eighteen months later, the marriage is on the rocks and heading for a messy divorce. Both sides no longer seem to be making any effort to keep the spark alive in the relationship. They appear resigned to fate, going through the motions, quite like a couple — thoroughly bored and disgusted with each other — staying in the same house but sleeping in different rooms.
And just as in a classic break-up situation, both the BJP and the PDP seem to be waiting for the right moment that will ensure they get the maximum mileage and sympathy while exiting the relationship. And the other side, maximum flak.
But there appears little time left now for such structured finesse and timing. The resignation of PDP MP Karra has the potential to trigger a chain of events which will gather its own momentum, causing the BJP-PDP alliance to implode.
Karra’s emotive statements equating the alliance government with the Nazi regime and accusing Prime Minister Modi of pushing an agenda of intolerance and Hinduisation, will have an impact on the PDP cadre. By exhorting fellow PDP lawmakers to follow his example he has made chief minister Mehbooba Mufti’s already difficult position more precarious.
Mehbooba Mufti has nobody but herself to blame for this situation. After her father’s death she vacillated too long and tried too hard to get a good bargain. In the end, all that posturing yielded little for her. Only her goodwill — both with her cadre as well as the BJP — suffered. And the vacuum of over two months after Mufti saheb’s passing away and the public dilly-dallying and bargaining robbed the PDP-BJP alliance of whatever little lustre and allure it had during her father’s tenure.
Now Mehbooba is getting marginalised on both fronts. Delhi views her as a weak leader and a not fully trustworthy ally. Her supporters in the valley see her as someone who has deserted them and the cause of Kashmir for power. For her political survival, Mehbooba has little choice but to walk out of this alliance.
She may just be waiting for the right time to exit. Any big event, incident and tragedy can offer her that opportunity.
For the BJP too, the romance and optimism of last year looks like a flashback from an old black-and-white era film. The party had forged the alliance viewing it as an historic opportunity to make inroads in the valley. In hindsight, the idea itself was not based on ground realities. Across the valley people had voted with one purpose in mind: to the keep BJP out.
But the experiment still had a chance till Mufti Mohammad Sayeed was the Chief Minister who was so much more politically savvy than Mehbooba.
A quick aside here.
It’s remarkable how the older generation leaders have behaved with such maturity in Kashmir. From a Delhi perspective, Omar Abdullah has been too short-sighted these past couple of months, stoking separatist sentiment in the valley by his provocative statements.
His stand may have gained Omar some brownie points vis-a-vis Mehbooba (who was no different when Omar was in the saddle) but his trust quotient in Delhi has gone down several notches. It would have been so much wiser on Omar’s part if he had learnt a few lessons from his father.
For all the colour and controversy in his personal life, Dr Farooq Abdullah was always so much more mature and restrained when doing politics in and on Kashmir.
Coming back to the BJP and the Centre, they seem to be running out of options. The situation in the valley is slippery and shows no signs of improvement. Sticking on with Mehbooba and the PDP is bringing diminishing returns with each passing day.
In this scenario, the option of imposing Governor’s Rule is increasingly being discussed in Delhi with the government weighing the pros and cons of such a move. Those favouring Governor’s Rule have many arguments, but weather seems to be one factor weighing on the minds of Centre.
With winter and snowfall approaching, there are some who argue that cross-border infiltration and support to separatists will come down in the next few months, giving Delhi an extra few months to make up its mind. And give a final chance to the PDP-BJP alliance to retrieve the situation.
The question, keeping in mind the present situation in the valley, is: Does Delhi have the luxury of time on its side?
(Sanjeev Srivastava is founder-editor of EditPlatter.com and former India Editor of BBC. The views expressed are personal. He can be contacted at [email protected])