Clash Of Regional Interests Puts Mufti's Mega Image At Stake

7 June 2015
The Tribune (Chandigarh)
Arun Joshi

Jammu: The 'historic' PDP-BJP coalition government was aboard on March 1 after a long spell of uncertainties over the tie-up between North Pole and South Pole but its plane is yet to take off even as it completes 100 days in office on June 8. Some unforeseen and few predictable snags in the coalition have kept its wings on hold. It's early days yet - is the line of the government viewed against the backdrop of an enormously ambitious agenda that it had set out to fulfil in which the order of regional and communal harmony figured prominently. Mufti Mohammad Sayeed was chosen the captain to steer the state out of a difficult situation - devastating floods had distressed the population in parts of the state. The road ahead was blocked by severe financial crunch. The political, communal and regional polarisation were hurting almost everything. Mufti Sayeed, a veteran politician and experienced administrator, was projected as someone who had acceptability in all three regions of the state. Plus, he offered a rare opportunity to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP to resolve the festering Kashmir issue. The rare combination of a hardline and separatist-minded Kashmiri Muslim PDP joining hands with ultra Hindu nationalist BJP was seen as a unique opportunity for both. 'It was a win-win situation for both of them,' renowned economist and now Finance Minister in the state Haseeb Drabu had declared and his BJP partner in the negotiations Ram Madhav had echoed the sentiments. Mufti had a record to support the halo that was built around him. His first stint as Chief Minister from 2002-2005 had brought about a significant collection of changes in Kashmir. People had felt secure. Anti-terror law POTA was taken off the statute book. There was a 'feel good' factor. This image was placed before Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The prospects of the attractive results of the PDP-BJP alliance were so dazzling for him that he put the seal on the coalition, hoping that his image among Muslims in the country would go up. The greater lure, as was sold to him by Ram Madhav, was that the Kashmir crisis that had been haunting the nation and had become a sore point between India and Pakistan relations would find a lasting solution. The plan was irresistible. Today more than anyone else, Modi and Mufti know that the spate of controversies and the clash of interests and ideologies have mired the beginning and spoiled the atmospherics. The sense of security that the citizens in Kashmir had is fading. Militants are staging a comeback, security forces are feeling abandoned. The defining narrative of the day speaks of regional and communal differences. The coalition partners are part of this narrative. It is unfortunate but unchecked. 'The vote for change', the theme that Mufti Sayeed had chanted all along during the stiff poll campaign, was credited to Pakistan, militant groups and separatists. That beginning beset the coalition, and the BJP came out with retaliatory rhetoric. The arch of development and harmony was replaced by a war of words, which is still on. These controversies have not allowed the seeds of governance to sprout. The mega image of Mufti Sayeed is at stake. It's not too late as yet - the scales can still be tilted and there is a long period ahead - only 100 days have gone, 2090 days are still lying ahead. Performance card: Highs: * Readiness during flood threat: The government set into motion its entire administration when heavy rains caused a threat of flood in March * Reaching out to Bollywood: Mufti Mohammad Sayeed led his government's outreach to invite Bollywood to Kashmir in an attempt to boost tourism * Tourism back on roll: The industry had suffered severe setback by the devastating flood last year. Mufti outreach helped the tourism industry get back on its feet * Resolving Jammu protests: Tension flared in Jammu after the death of a Sikh protester during a demonstration. The government acted quickly and saved the situation from further flare up. Lows: * Recruitment policy: The government had to redo its controversial new policy on recruitment of youth in the state after it came under severe criticism. * Masarat controversy: The controversy surrounding release and subsequent detention of separatist leader Masarat Alam. * Settlement of Pandits: The plan to construct isolated settlements for migrant Kashmiri Pandits created a political storm with separatists vowing to oppose it. * AFSPA: Continuous flip-flop between coalition partners with the PDP advocating its revocation and BJP supporting its continuation * Engaging separatists: PDP's urge to involve separatists and Pakistan has not been positively responded by the BJP and the PDP has come under pressure for going lenient on separatists.