A Catch-22 situation for PDP

Men, Matters & Memories
M L Kotru

Governor N. N. Vohra, some would like to believe, must be relishing his role as the Chief Executive of Jammu and Kashmir  answerable to none but the all-seeing eye of the Home Ministry, with the PMO and the Prime Minister’s conscience-keeper Amit Shah, the BJP chief, very much in command on the ground. The State, meanwhile, the Valley in particular, yet to come to  terms with the aftermath  of the devastating floods and simultaneously fighting off shortages of fuel, domestic gas (and kerosene included), wondering whatever became of the men and the few women, they had elected only weeks ago to mind the gravely diminished store, as it were.
Yes, they had turned out in much larger numbers than  ever before, some 65 per cent of the population  Statewide, and  elected popular representatives in the hope of good governance and, more importantly, to address  the problems  confronting them, problems, man-made and those  of nature’s creation.
Prime Minister Modi’s sab ka saath, sab ka vikas may have struck a chord elsewhere in the country but in Jammu and Kashmir, the valley in particular, it is hard to come by, no evidence on the ground that its realization remains a possibility, even a distant one.
And  this  because the men voted to the State Assembly – yes, perhaps in a badly fractured  way — have  opted  to first settle  personal scores, more as  adversaries than people’s representatives elected  to  offer succor than exacerbate  mutual prejudices, the principal actors playing a kind of hide and seek among themselves and with the very people whose representatives they are, and poor souls, who themselves continue to suffer as the horse trading continues. Not one among them has for almost a month looked for the middle path, each instead   sticking to his high horse. For the present, at least.
For the record I do however confess to sensing a hopeful whiff from Jammu after the  two- hour meeting the People’s Democratic Party leader, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed had with Governor Vohra last week. You don’t generally keep talking for two hours if you have nothing meaningful to talk about or only to disagree at the end.
I am hopeful the seasoned politician, a former Chief Minister of the State at that, would have shared with the Governor a broad vision of the possibilities, including, evidently a tie-up with the BJP in the context of the two sides possibly opting to set aside their differences on some of the contentious issues for the present in order to give the State a stable Government. The Sayeed-Vohra meeting came after a series of back channel contacts which makes one hopeful, even as unhelpful murmurs from the two major State parties continue to be heard.
One is aware of the difficult options ahead, but one   will ultimately have to be made; that is exactly what the situation demands of the principal actors. Differences, howsoever unbridgeable they appear, must be quickly overcome and doable arrangements worked out. There is not much time left for the principals to persist with their adversarial positions. Merely by underscoring the differences the parties are not going to resolve the problems.
The poll verdict by itself has made it incumbent on the political parties, the People’s Democratic Party, the largest single party in the valley and the Bharatiya Janata Party, the largest single party from Jammu, to rest their known positions  on issues deemed basic to their political agenda and instead work out a framework within which to live up to the basic aspirations of the people in all three regions constituting the State.
Their choice is limited if they wish to undo, even partially, the damage caused by the post-poll polarisation in the State as a consequence of the sharply divisive  BJP   campaign. A stable PDP-BJP Government may still be able to heal the wounds which the campaign inflicted on the State. May be I am being over optimistic but such a development may even help give a new direction to our national discourse. A far cry, though, that seems, given the fire and brim stone the forces of Hindutva are belching forth.
It is no secret that the elections did throw up the People’s Democratic Party and the Bharatiya Janata Party, as the predominant political entities in Kashmir and Jammu divisions respectively. Together they would make for a stable combination to govern the troubled State. Any other combination would   be a hodge-podge involving either of these two larger parties in unrealistic alliances with discredited parties like the National Conference and the Congress. An alliance between the PDP  and the National Conference, congenitally    incapable of  joining hands must be ruled out as also   the so- called  grand alliance  between the PDP, the National Conference and the Congress touted by the last-named.it would in effect firm up the divisions between the constituent units of the State. Never mind the fact that the NC did manage to pick up a few seats in   the Jammu region including the Chenab valley.
The truth remains that there is a strong element of anti-Kashmir sentiment evident in the voting pattern in Jammu region, a sentiment reciprocated in ample measure in the valley. It may seem over simplistic but to my mind this is reason enough  for the two dominant parties from the two regions to come together to give the State a new Government. To form a Government to the exclusion of one of the two regions wouldn’t augur well for the State; it may only  mean a prolonged  spell of Governor’s  rule – read BJP’s via the Union Home Ministry– followed by a yet another and  more divisive poll.
For the BJP it may still be easier to keep the contentious issues like article 370 etc off the table. It had toned down the rhetoric on this and similar issues in the valley during the poll campaign. Only that, no more.
The party has improved its tally from 11 seats in 2008 to 25 in 2014 and to be a part of the power structure in the State becomes imperative for it. Only by coming to power, even by sharing it with others, can it hope to consolidate its base.
For the PDP it is a catch-22 situation. It is important for it to come to power and at the same time ensure that its political ideology is not diluted. The fallout of an alliance is something the party has to be wary of. Hence Mufti Sayeed’s almost unending deliberations with his party colleagues and the newly-elected MLAs. He must be seen as someone who is trying very hard to reconcile his party agenda, centering on engagement with Pakistan, separatists, cross-LOC confidence-building measures etc, with the situation that confronts his party right now.
With the reality of a badly fractured mandate which also made his PDP the single largest party in the newly elected State Assembly it has unavoidably become the first choice to be asked to form a Government. With more than a month gone after the Assembly results were announced the time may finally have come for the Mufti to tie the knot with the BJP.
To the Mufti and his party the route to reconciliation is through Kashmir and hence the belief that an alliance with BJP may in time persuade Prime Minister Modi to finally tow the Vajpayee line on Pakistan. This would be a vindication for him and his party and a good reason for both the PDP-BJP to join hands.

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