Did PDP Consult Hurriyat Conference Before Forming J&K Government With BJP?

14 December 2015
Sameer Yasir

Srinagar: On New Year's Eve in 2014, much before the Peoples Democratic Party formed an alliance with the BJP to come to power in Jammu and Kashmir, Abdul Gani Bhat, one of the top-rung Hurriyat leaders, had a late night meeting with the PDP patron, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, at his upscale Gupkar residence in Srinagar. When the news broke, Kashmir reacted with awe and shock. Known for blending politics and philosophy, Bhat perhaps had become the first Hurriyat leader to have reportedly discussed the formation of a government which his parent group, the All-Parties Hurriyat Conference in Jammu and Kashmir, doesn't recognise. In the public imagination, the PDP had got the blessings of the Hurriyat, or at least Bhat, to go ahead and form the alliance with the BJP, a decision that was opposed by people cutting across the political divide in the Kashmir Valley. After the meeting when Bhat was asked about the possibility of an alliance between the BJP and PDP, he cryptically replied, 'Snakes can marry rats and bulls chase lizards. Anything can happen with reference to government formation. But at present we can say let's not count stars which lie beyond.' Bhat's philosophical remarks were neither seen as an extension of support nor his opposition to the alliance, but it created a political furore in the Valley with many in separatist camp calling for his expulsion from Hurriyat's Executive Council. But now, after the disclosure by PDP president Mehbooba Mufti, it seems that the January meeting between Bhat and her father was not just a meeting between 'two friends,' as Bhat had described it at that time, but as the first stepping-stone towards taking the Hurriyat Conference on board for the larger political process that has begun with the meeting of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif. Mehbooba said on Saturday that her party had sought approval from the 'Hurriyat party', for the government formation with the BJP. 'With (former prime minister, Atal Bihari) Vajpayee the experience was good, but forming an alliance with the present BJP was not easy for us. It took us two months to decide the agenda of alliance. Hurriyat party was also called and getting its consent on most of the issues the government is working,' Mehbooba said while speaking at 'Agenda Aaj Tak' in New Delhi. The 'Hurriyat party', to which Mehbooba was referring, is the moderate faction of Hurriyat Conference, of which Bhat is a constituent. Headed by Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, the moderate Hurriyat has held talks with the previous NDA government led by Vajpayee. India and Pakistan will bring them on board again for talks when they resume talks, it's widely believed. The Hurriyat publicly terms the mainstream parties as the 'enemies' of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. The moderate faction of the Hurriyat rejected outright Mehbooba's remarks, saying they were against the BJP-PDP alliance since day one. 'How could it be possible that we have met the PDP to give them consent for their alliance with the BJP? It is simply a lie,' its chairman Mirwaiz, said. Bhat too refused to acknowledge Mehbooba's assertion, but said that despite being on two sides of the political divides, people can still be friends. 'Let people say whatever they have to. It would be too low to even acknowledge this,' he said. It has been 10 months since the BJP-PDP coalition came into office in Srinagar. Although the Centre led by Modi has announced a much needed economic package of Rs 80,000 crore to the state, analysts warn that Kashmir needs a political package more than an economic one. 'If at all this is true, Bhat might have been in favour of this alliance, knowing well that only a right-wing party can deliver on Kashmir if it wishes to,' Manzoor Ahmad Shawal, a political observer based in Srinagar, told Firstpost. Mirwaiz, in an interview to The Economic Times, had said a Hindu nationalist party at the helm of affairs in New Delhi can succeed in the resolution of the Kashmir issue. 'You need a party, which has numbers, strength and courage to take political initiatives. We thought the BJP could be that party. In that context, in the past 30 years, it seems Vajpayee was the only person who could be engaged with. There is also the fact that even when he was foreign minister, he would advocate that issues have to be settled with Pakistan. He was one of the few faces who would understand the dynamics of the problem and was ready to walk that extra mile in reaching out to the people. We were hopeful that this NDA will revisit his policy,' he had said in the interview.