The challenge in Jammu & Kashmir

March 21, 2016 12:18 am | Updated December 04, 2021 11:02 pm IST

Of late, political uncertainty has hit some of India’s strategically significant border States — Jammu and Kashmir, Uttarakhand, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh. Of these, J&K is undoubtedly the most sensitive State, where the Government of India has bled physically and financially for over 25 years to stop the separatist discourse and bring its people back to the political mainstream. But the >demise of Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed in early January culminated in a political crisis as the two coalition partners, the Peoples Democratic Party and the Bharatiya Janata Party, fell out, with >the former accusing the latter of not abiding by the “Agenda of Alliance” , the goodwill treaty that had brought them together. Last week, the hope of such a coalition government emerging was renewed when Mehbooba Mufti, who is deemed a natural political successor to her father, met BJP president Amit Shah in Delhi. The meeting only resulted in further estrangement and left one big question: will the BJP be able to give Ms. Mufti what she wants? So far, she has declared the Mufti’s decision to join hands with the BJP an “unpopular” choice, but she has been vague when it comes to explaining where the BJP has gone wrong with the Agenda of Alliance. The BJP has not been forthright enough either. It is unclear what the party would or would not seek to deliver under the Agenda. For the Centre, governing Jammu and Kashmir has not been easy, not even in the post-insurgency era. Previous governments led by the BJP or Congress, backed governments in the State by making efforts to fill its budget deficits, fix its battered infrastructure and skilfully tackle separatist elements.

The three successive governments in post-insurgency Kashmir could only function when they had the Centre’s backing. In the early 2000s, the decision of the Vajpayee government to allow cross-LoC trade and travel, enter into bilateral engagement with Pakistan, and talk to Kashmiri separatists on the side, not only increased voter confidence but also brought the mainstream discourse back to the Valley. A decade later, with >the arrival of the PDP-BJP coalition government , a similar approach was expected. But the State seems to be vulnerable again, with the number of militant strikes increasing and the absence of a civilian government furthering political alienation. For the BJP, the need of the hour is to work out an alliance with the PDP and scuttle any attempts to subvert Ms. Mufti within her party through undemocratic means, such as horse-trading. It is equally important to cultivate a strong mainstream leadership in the State by giving politicians like her the space to bargain with the Centre within the constitutional framework. Therefore, the BJP must not use the government at the Centre to make political gains in Jammu and Kashmir. It should revisit the Agenda of Alliance and also set the terms of the Agenda in concrete terms. If that does not work, it should simply go for new elections. Any undemocratic attempt to break the deadlock could have larger ramifications.

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