A break-up foretold

September 17, 2016 01:13 am | Updated November 09, 2021 02:13 am IST

Sometimes the symptom, and not its underlying cause, seems like the real problem. If Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti has anything to worry about, it is not the resignation of her party MP, > Tariq Hameed Karra , but the issues he raised while announcing his decision to quit the Peoples Democratic Party and the Lok Sabha. Despite his call to like-minded people to “join” him, Mr. Karra is unlikely to get critical support within the party to threaten Ms. Mufti’s standing in the PDP. However, while drawing attention to the unrest in the Kashmir Valley, and the “civilian killings”, he has also pointed to the irreconcilable differences between the PDP and its alliance partner, the Bharatiya Janata Party. Mr. Karra might have been politically opportunistic in the timing of his resignation, but there is no way the PDP can get away from having to define, to its political constituency, the nature of its relationship with the BJP. Ideologically, the PDP has more in common with the National Conference than with the BJP. But, after a fractured mandate in the 2014 Assembly election, it chose to ally with the BJP rather than explore the possibility of an alliance with the NC and the Congress. The NC was a rival, with the support bases of the two parties overlapping in many areas of the Valley. The BJP, however, had its base in Jammu and did not compete with the PDP. Short-term political calculations inevitably led to a PDP-BJP alliance.

To be sure, Ms. Mufti had grappled with the contradictions in the relationship with the BJP before she was sworn in as Chief Minister following the death of Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, her father. But the BJP, just as conscious as the PDP of the need to protect its own vote bank, did not give an inch while renegotiating the terms of engagement. Not surprisingly, she failed to wrest any major concessions from the BJP. Whatever the nature of Mr. Karra’s political ambitions, he has framed the dilemma for Ms. Mufti. Clearly, she cannot go into an election in alliance with the BJP. Both the PDP and the NC, at different points, have allied with the Congress. But the BJP, with its Hindutva plank, is a non-starter as an electoral ally for any party seeking to represent the Muslims of Kashmir. The coalition government of the PDP and the BJP is likely to fall before the Assembly election, but it is in the interest of both parties to remain together in power for the longest period possible. The break-up seems like an event foretold; what is uncertain is the nature of the trigger and the timing.

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