Mehbooba calls it quits as BJP pulls the plug

Madhav said the decision to withdraw was taken after consulting Prime Minister Narendra Modi and party chief Amit Shah.

June 19, 2018 07:10 pm | Updated 10:16 pm IST - New Delhi/Srinagar

Outgoing Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti addresses a press conference in Srinagar on Tuesday.

Outgoing Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti addresses a press conference in Srinagar on Tuesday.

Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti resigned on Tuesday after the BJP announced that it was pulling out of the alliance with her Peoples Democratic Party that has ruled the State since March 2015. Later in the day, Governor N.N. Vohra forwarded his report to the President recommending imposition of Governor’s Rule in the State.

The BJP’s decision to sever ties was announced by party general secretary and point man for Jammu and Kashmir affairs Ram Madhav at a press conference in New Delhi. It came after a hurriedly called meeting of the BJP’s Ministers in the State government and State unit office-bearers.

‘Untenable for BJP’

Mr. Madhav said Prime Minister Narendra Modi and party chief Amit Shah were both on board in the decision. “It has become untenable for the BJP to continue in alliance with the PDP in Jammu and Kashmir,” he said, claiming that the Centre and the Home Ministry had made a sincere effort.

“It grieves me that despite this, the dominant partner in the alliance [the PDP] was not able to handle the situation in the State. Obstacles were also placed in the way of development projects in Jammu and Ladakh,” said Mr. Madhav, clearly signalling that the BJP was upset at its own corroding support base in Jammu and Ladakh because of partnering with the PDP.

‘Pre-emptive strike’

Senior leaders said the BJP had also anticipated that the PDP was going to pull out of the alliance sometime in September, and that it was a pre-emptive strike to offset more political damage. Of late, the two partners were seen pulling in different directions on the approach to be adopted towards growing anti-India protests, separatists and local militants. While the BJP pushed for a hot pursuit against separatists and militants in the first half of 2017, the PDP pushed hard for the Centre’s unilateral ceasefire during Ramzan this year which was subsequently not extended.

Ms. Mufti, while insisting that the pullout was not a surprise for her, hinted at the Centre’s “muscular policy” as a tipping point. “We can’t treat Jammu and Kashmir as enemy territory. There is no room for a ‘muscular policy’ in the State,” she said after tendering her resignation at Raj Bhavan. The PDP leader also touted her government’s achievements such as “defending” Article 370 and 35A, releasing 11,000 protesters, and the unilateral ceasefire.

In the Assembly polls in December 2014, the PDP had won 28 seats and the BJP 25 in the 89-member House. The two parties finally formed the government on March 1, 2015 with an ‘Agenda of Alliance’.

The National Conference and the Congress — which won 15 and 12 seats respectively — said on Tuesday that there were no prospects of alternative alliances. “In 2015, I had said that the National Conference did not have the mandate and in 2018 too, the same is the case… We request that Governor’s Rule should not stay long as people have the right to choose their government,” said NC leader and former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah. He added that he had advised Ms. Mufti to quit early, but “she chose to be dismissed with no dignity.”

“The opportunistic BJP-PDP alliance set fire to J&K, killing many innocent people including our brave soldiers. It cost India strategically & destroyed years of UPA’s hard work. The damage will continue under Governor’s rule. Incompetence, arrogance & hatred always fails (sic),” Congress president Rahul Gandhi said in a tweet.

Senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad, another former Chief Minister of the State, said that while the Governor should have allowed regional parties to form a government in 2015, the question of forming a government with the PDP now “does not arise”.

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