No one misses political import of Mehbooba Mufti’s speech (News Analysis)

Jammu/Srinagar, Feb 1 (IANS) The 45-minute speech that Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) president Mehbooba Mufti delivered to her party leaders in Srinagar on Sunday was surcharged with emotion — but its political import was missed by none.

After the PDP core group meeting ended, Governor N.N. Vohra sent a fax message to Mehbooba Mufti, seeking a meeting with her at the Raj Bhavan in Jammu on Tuesday.

Like the PDP rank and file, as also PDP ally BJP and rival National Conference, Vohra had heard the message loud and clear: Mehbooba Mufti was not ready to form the new government in Jammu and Kashmir as a status quoist politician.

“I am ready to burn my fingers, but I will not burn them for nothing,” she told her party leaders as they met in Srinagar on Sunday to discuss party issues, including government-formation in the state.

She could not hide her bitterness, or grief, over her father’s death. “Non-fulfilment of promises made by us to the people in the last 10 months taxed Mufti sahib heavily,” she said while referring to her late father and chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed.

The PDP leader said, for the first time since Sayeed passed away on January 7 at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in New Delhi, that her father died a sad man.

“Till the time he was talking in the Intensive Care Unit of AIIMS, Mufti sahib asked me whether a relief package promised by the Centre had reached the state.”

“I said yes. I lied to my father,” Mehbooba Mufti said.

Addressing the opinion voiced by PDP legislators and senior leaders that the party was answerable to the people who had given it the mandate, though fractured, to form the government, she said: “Mufti sahib took a courageous but unpopular decision to form an alliance with the BJP but the alliance has not delivered so far.”

“I am not averse to government formation, but that can only happen if the government of India gives assurances on time-bound implementation of the agenda of alliance.”

“My father had broad shoulders. He could take huge burden. I don’t have shoulders as strong as he had,” the PDP president said.

“If anyone among you still feels we must form the government, as it has been during the last 10 months, you are free to make your choice. I am prepared to begin alone a battle for the realisation of Mufti sahib’s vision, beginning from scratch if it has to be so.”

Her rivals in the National Conference though are calling it posturing to mount pressure on the BJP.

While NC patron and former chief minister Farooq Abdullah said in a statement that “Modi will give them nothing”, others in the opposition party said it was a fixed-match between the PDP and the BJP.

“The BJP will again say it is reposing trust in her. She will say the BJP leadership has made fresh assurances. I am not ready to believe she will not form the government and thereby choose to remain in wilderness for long,” said a senior NC leader and former minister in Jammu.

The BJP leadership has, meanwhile, decided to wait and watch without doing anything that could unsettle its relationship with the PDP.

“We have already signed an agenda of alliance with the PDP. What further assurances can there be on a written document? Yes, we also agree that the implementation has to be time-bound.

“It is already stated in the agenda that the terms of the alliance will be implemented during the six-year PDP-BJP rule. What further assurances are needed,” said a senior BJP leader in Jammu.

Top BJP sources in Delhi told IANS that it was highly unlikely that either Prime Minister Narendra Modi or BJP president Amit Shah will make any announcement in response to Mehbooba Mufti’s statement.

So, is Jammu and Kashmir headed for a mid-term poll? Obviously yes, unless the PDP and the NC — both poles apart in state politics — decide to bury acrimony to come closer to address the problems of the people of Jammu and Kashmir.

Truly, as Mufti Sayeed used to say, politics is the art of the possible, even in impossible situations.

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