Pragmatism over politics

February 26, 2015 01:01 am | Updated December 04, 2021 11:35 pm IST

The nomenclature for the PDP-BJP coalition points to the pragmatism needed on the perilous path the two parties have bravely undertaken in forming a coalition government in Jammu and Kashmir. Their coalition document is called an “Agenda for the Alliance”, not a “common minimum programme”. And the two sides have made it clear that what they are forging is not a “political alliance” but a “governance alliance”. Despite that, their decision to come together is itself a welcome sign that leaders both in the State and the Centre are willing to put aside the extreme rhetoric of the election campaign to build a government that represents the mandate fractured along Jammu-Kashmir-Ladakh lines, and to cater to their constituencies there as one whole.

The road ahead is far from easy. Their interlocutors have been well-advised to outline and face the issues head-on, and that will be the most contentious part. While the BJP’s insistence on a debate on Article 370 has been set aside for now, no one can doubt that it is a core principle for the party. The return of Kashmiri Pandits to the Valley, and the rehabilitation and recognition of refugees from Pakistan, have been rightly termed “humanitarian” issues and will need careful handling. Already we have heard from the Panun Kashmir movement of its opposition to the BJP-PDP alliance. The PDP’s demand for a time-bound revocation of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, too, is a core demand, and the PDP’s agreement to nuance it will not erase the groundswell against the Act in the Valley, even as it seeks to push for its partial withdrawal and, as the Justice Verma Committee recommended in 2013, take crimes such as “sexual violence” out of its purview. It will require a certain amount of statesmanship on the part of Mufti Mohammad Sayeed as Chief Minister not to fall into the trap his predecessors faced, in using all these issues to score points against the Centre. Above all, the part of their common agenda that will demand the greatest amount of statesmanship from the Centre, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi in particular, is the process of “engaging all stakeholders” to work on a resolution of the Kashmir issue, in the manner that both his predecessors, A.B. Vajpayee and Manmohan Singh did, by engaging both Pakistan and the Hurriyat separately. Mr. Modi has the benefit of their experiences, as well as their template of the four-step process that has over the past decade shown its potential, whether it was on the Line of Control ceasefire, or on trade and travel across the LoC. The PDP-BJP “Agenda for Alliance” now holds the key to coalitional harmony. It will also be an important pivot to Mr. Modi’s plans for his subcontinental outreach.

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