Amit Shah's Biggest Mistake: Rejecting Omar For Mufti In Kashmir Swayamvar

17 March 2015
Sandipan Sharma

New Delhi: If Amit Shah were to write a book on the three mistakes of his life, the uncomfortable, embarrassing alliance with Mufti Mohammed Sayeed in Srinagar would figure on top of that list. During the past fortnight, since he sealed the deal with the PDP, the BJP has been pummelled for making several ideological compromises to come to power. In the Parliament, Prime Minister Narendra has had to face flak for his alliance partner's decision to release separatist leader Masarat Alam and praise Pakistan and militants for 'allowing' assembly elections in the state. Outside, the BJP has been slammed for abandoning its stand on Article 370 and supporting the very Papa-Daughter Party it had railed against during the campaign. Now it is emerging that Shah's actually had the option of avoiding this difficult, troublesome marriage. According to the Indian Express, Shah was actively wooing Jammu & Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah for a post-poll alliance. But the deal fell through because of Abdullah's reluctance to agree to the BJP's terms and conditions. The BJP, it seems, said 'I do' to the PDP on the rebound. Ironically, it abandoned most of its original terms and conditions in its desperation to find a partner in the Valley. Why did the Omar-Shah deal fail? According to the IE report, the BJP wanted to offer the deputy CM's post to Abdullah's party, which has 15 seats in the Assembly. Since the BJP has 25 MLAs in the 87-member House, it wanted the top job for itself. This was unacceptable to Abdullah, who wanted to be the CM himself. The BJP, on the other hand, claims Abdullah 'lacked conviction and was being unreasonable. He was also hoping that the BJP will not be able to strike a deal with Mufti because of ideological differences and will have no option but to come back to him. A BJP leader told IE that 'Omar lost out on an opportunity'. But, it is difficult to understand what Shah gained by losing Abdullah, a much softer and malleable ally. In the final bargain, Shah didn't get anything he wanted from the PDP. Mufti insisted on remaining the CM for six years, sought a written assurance from the BJP that it will not talk about Article 370, remained ambiguous and equivocal on the BJP's demand for citizenship rights to refugees from across the border and coerced Modi into reconsidering the government's tough stand on talks with Pakistan. Would Abdullah have said no to such a lucrative deal? It would have immediately accepted a BJP that was not only down on its knees but was willing to bend over backwards. It is true that the arithmetic of an alliance with Abdullah would have been difficult. The BJP (with 25 seats) and NC (with 15 seats) would have required the support of at least eight more MLAs for a simple majority. But the ideological difficulties would have been easier to sort out. Since the Abdullahs had done business with the BJP in the past-NC was part of the Atal Behari Vajpayee government -their alliance would have not been seen as a huge ideological compromise by the BJP and its supporters. In addition, the BJP would have had the advantage of working with a party that had not shown any inclination of being soft on separatism and terrorism during its six-year rule.But the BJP now seems stuck with an unpredictable CM whose political philosophy is in stark contrast to the BJP's. How did Shah land himself in this soup? There appears to be just one explanation. When results of the J&K elections were announced, the BJP was at the peak of its popularity. It had won elections in Maharashtra, Haryana and Jharkhand; in the euphoria of victory, the Modi juggernaut looked unstoppable. So, Shah may have invited Abdullah for negotiations like a victorious king. Shah may have exhibited the same kind of 'take-it-or-leave-it' intransigence and obduracy he had adopted while dealing with the Shiv Sena and its allies in Haryana in the aftermath of its earlier wins. As pointed out by the IE, the 'NC being the smaller party, the BJP thought it could get its way, but this was unacceptable to Omar.' And then it was too late. By January, the political tide had started to turn. Modi got a lot of bad press for his showmanship and sartorial choices during Barack Obama's visit, the BJP made several blunders during the Delhi campaign and eventually suffered a humiliating loss. On the rebound from NC, defeated by the AAP, Shah had no choice but to strike a face-saving deal with Mufti and dump both his hubris and terms and conditions.