Confrontation within an alliance

Updated - December 04, 2021 11:02 pm IST

Published - March 26, 2016 12:37 am IST

Often, all it takes for the resolution of a political crisis is time. Mehbooba Mufti and her Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) may have ultimately >failed to wrest any political concessions from Prime Minister Narendra Modi before >agreeing once again to form a coalition government with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Jammu and Kashmir. But by delaying the swearing-in as Chief Minister for more than two months after the death of her father, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, she signalled that she is a leader fully conscious of the contradictions in the PDP-BJP alliance and one who wants to engage the BJP on her own terms. Ms. Mufti would have liked the Centre to commit itself to a time frame for the implementation of the Agenda of Alliance the PDP and the BJP had entered into when they first came together after a fractured electoral mandate in the 2014 Assembly election. But Mr. Modi knew very well that any political concession to the PDP could not come without some political cost to the BJP, not only in Jammu, but also at the national level. Both parties were under compulsion to demonstrate to their political constituencies that they would stand firm and not budge from their stated positions. The stalemate could have ended only with time running out, not with either side backing down. Ms. Mufti may have come away empty handed but she can portray herself as a leader who was unwilling to make political compromises for the sake of power. It was important for her to be seen as being ready to fight the BJP if the situation so warranted; winning the fight was not an immediate goal.

One of the difficulties for the PDP is that without the active support of the Centre, and the initiation of a political process for peace and security, no regime in Jammu and Kashmir can overcome the alienation of large sections of the people in the State. In this sense, for the PDP, the alliance with the BJP was a means to exert pressure on the Centre to not only grant the State packages for economic development, but to also facilitate a peace process that brings together all stakeholders within and beyond the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir to end decades of militancy. However, over the last year, there has been little forward movement on the peace process. Instead, there have been a series of controversies, such as the >ban on consumption of beef and the use of the State flag. The PDP, conscious of ceding ground to the National Conference (NC), found itself in a dilemma: continuing the alliance with the BJP without obtaining political concessions could erode its support base in the Valley, but ending the alliance could merely hand over the reins of the government to the NC. Ms. Mufti thus chose the only option available to her: to continue the alliance with the BJP, but by maintaining a confrontationist edge in the relations with the Centre, which she believes is necessary to maintain her political credibility within the Valley.

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