Mehbooba Mufti must take a call

Updated - December 04, 2021 11:02 pm IST

Published - February 05, 2016 12:38 am IST

Peoples Democratic Party president Mehbooba Mufti finally sent out > a clear message to the Bharatiya Janata Party this week. The Centre, she said, must initiate Jammu and Kashmir-specific confidence building measures to “create an atmosphere congenial for [the] formation of the new government”, and announce a timeline to implement the Agenda for Alliance that the BJP signed on to when it joined the PDP-led government headed by her father, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed. His death a month ago created a political vacuum that Ms. Mufti appeared reluctant to fill in a hurry. She was not just mourning the death of a father who was a mentor and a comrade, but like her party colleagues, she too was not keen to continue with the alliance. In the 10 months that the Mufti government held office, the PDP saw a steady erosion in its support base, with the advantage perceived to be going to the National Conference and the Congress. This was largely because the BJP had used the time to promote the Sangh Parivar’s agenda. When Mr. Sayeed agreed last year to a political arrangement with the BJP, it was based as much on his reading of the election results as it was on an agreement to honour the Agenda of Alliance that eschewed controversial issues. The expectation was that aligning the PDP with the BJP would lead the Centre to cast an indulgent eye on Jammu and Kashmir’s developmental needs.

However, the BJP’s national leadership allowed its State unit to foment trouble, instigated controversies on sensitive issues ranging from consumption of beef to flying the State flag alongside the national tricolour, thereby unsettling the atmosphere needed for good governance. Mr. Sayeed’s death has provided the PDP the opportunity to hit the pause button to remind the BJP of its obligations and, from a partisan perspective, recover lost political ground. The BJP has sought time to consider its options: its State unit is eager to form a government again, but the national leadership has not demonstrated any eagerness in this direction. While it is not clear how much should be read into the fact that Prime Minister Narendra Modi did not visit Mr. Sayeed when he was being treated in a Delhi hospital, it is evident that there has been no visible overture from any senior BJP leader after his death either. But differences between alliance partners cannot be sufficient reason for any brinkmanship that could jeopardise governance. Indeed, it is only after Governor N.N. Vohra took the initiative to communicate the requirement that there has been any movement. As constitutional expert A.G. Noorani argues, the PDP-BJP government has not lost its majority in the House, and the creation of “a political deadlock for political reasons” should not be permitted. It is clearly time that Ms. Mufti bit the bullet and accepted the responsibility of providing the troubled State with a government — or stepped up to the situation and said that her party is out of the reckoning in the government-formation process.

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