PDP Split On Alliance With BJP, Fears Valley Backlash

29 December 2014
Times of India
Sagarika Ghose

New Delhi: The PDP, the party which won the maximum seats in J&K, is now split wide open over whether to seek BJP support to form a government. Highly placed sources in the PDP have confirmed to TOI that at least half a dozen of the 28 PDP MLAs have rejected the idea of a tie up with the BJP, saying it would go against their mandate. While senior leaders and a former deputy CM Muzaffar Hussein Baig has openly supported a tie up, Mehbooba Mufti and newly elected Rajpora MLA Haseeb Drabu, widely tipped to be the state's finance minister, have opposed the alliance. The PDP leadership has been meeting the MLAs individually before it takes a final call ahead of its meeting with the governor on January 1. 'If we go with the BJP, it will be political suicide for us,' one of the MLAs told TOI. 'It is better to have governor's rule if required.' However, the group which wants a tie up feels that this is the best chance for the PDP to redefine the politics of the state. 'Six years is a long time in politics and if Mufti Mohd Sayeed as CM delivers, we will be able to strengthen ourselves in both Srinagar and Delhi.' The fact that the BJP is in power at the Centre is an obvious attraction since central funds for flood relief will be the immediate challenge. A Modi-Mufti tie up is seen by the pro-alliance group as a partnership that can outlast the equation the Abdullahs had with the Congress leadership. But the mathematical reality is being confronted with a political reality. A section of the PDP is worried that the tie-up will lead to backlash in the valley. 'The high voter turnout was because the voters didn't want the BJP to bloom in the valley. If we tie up with the BJP today, the national conference will benefit tomorrow.' The anti-alliance group emphasises that saffron outfits are carrying out 'ghar wapsi' drives across India. Mehbooba Mufti had made strengthening article 370, soft borders and revocation of AFSPA key elements of her campaign. During an interview on the campaign trail, she had told this correspondent, these were non- negotiable issues. The BJP knows that it's voter in Jammu doesn't want a compromise on these issues either. 'It's a tough situation for both sides to evolve a common minimum agenda,' admits a BJP leader, 'whatever we gain in one region, we will lose in another. We could be na ghar ka, na ghaati ka.' Among top leaders there are strong misgivings in the top leadership of the PDP about entering an alliance with a party perceived as a Hindu majoritarian force in the valley. Speaking to TOI, highly placed sources in the PDP said the situation was one of compulsion versus choice. The so called 'secular grand alliance' being pushed by Ghulam Nabi Azad or a PDP alliance with Congress and NC is increasingly being rejected as an option, because it is seen as bringing in through the back door parties which have lost the peoples' mandate. However, pro-alliance PDP leaders are willing to look on the positive aspects of Modi's leadership. They say that one of the positive features of PM Narendra Modi is that he doesn't listen to the IB when it comes to Kashmir and does not have a conspiratorial mindset on Kashmir. Modi is seen as someone who might demilitarise Delhi's mindset on Kashmir and actually push decision making on an institutional civil service level. 'Modi has a healthy disregard for the constant IB conspiratorial suspicions about Kashmir, which is a major change and one that the PDP appreciates,' said a highly placed source within the party. However the PDP believes it will have to 'de-fang' the BJP while in alliance. This will mean a very strong terms of engagement between the two parties. The party believes it is helping the BJP save Kashmir and save India, because if the BJP tries to cobble its own government or impose a Hindu CM, the state may see a return to militancy. The de-fanging of the BJP will rest on two factors: 1. If the BJP talks of Article 370, PDP will walk out of the government and second that AFSPA must go and there has to be a review of the larger role of the army and a heightening of civil society's role in Kashmir society. The PDP leadership says it is fully aware of the political risk it is taking, but blames the Omar Abdullah government for ceding Jammu to the Congress since it was the Congress's defeat that has made the BJP's big win in Jammu possible. BjP gained at the expense of the Congress because it was the Omar Abdullah government which effectively trifurcated the state between Kashmir, Jammu and Ladakh. 'Today the Congress is a defeated force, how can we go with them? Do they have the legitimacy to help us in dealing with Pakistan or with the Hurriyat? Congress killed 1 lakh 20,000 Muslims through militancy and it was the Congress which single-handedly destroyed Article 370,' said the highly placed PDP source. Yet the fact is that Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and PM Narendra Modi hardly know each other. For Mufti, an old style consensus builder in the 1960s Congress mould, Modi is an unknown quality unlike the long association he had with Vajpayee or Manmohan Singh. The PDP, however, says it does not want fresh elections because this mandate is not a fractured one but one that accurately reflects the complexities and sentiments of the people of Kashmir since decisive mandates have been given to the PDP in Kashmir, BJP in Jammu and Congress in Ladakh. In many ways this is a defining moment for Kashmir, one that has forced the PDP to think more about the integrity of the state of J&K rather than its own political compulsions. The pro-alliance camp in the PDP believes the impact of the RSS and Hindutva is limited in Kashmir. 'The demolition of the Babri Masjid had a limited impact in Kashmir as the civil societies in Kashmir and the rest of India are disengaged from each other,' say PDP sources. Making the situation even more complex is the stand taken by the independents. Of the seven, four are considered ready to support a PDP-BJP tie up, while three don't seem to want this alliance. The National Conference is playing the wait and watch game while the Congress seems clearest for now: it will support any deal where the BJP is kept out. If there is no visible change in positions in the next few days, a brief period of governors rule is not being ruled out. 'Maybe it will give all of us some breathing space,' the senior PDP leader who is against the alliance told this correspondent. J&K's winter chill is clearly extending to the political class for now. For Mufti Mohd Sayeed, the dilemma is more acute. A congressman through much of his political career, he moved to the janata dal of VP singh in the late 80s, protesting the Farooq-Rajiv tie up in 1987 that many believe set the stage for the rise of militancy. After the verdict, he has almost shut himself from even his own party men and has maintained near-complete silence. 'He is troubled, and not sure what to do next,' admitted a confidante.