Srinagar: It seems the PDP and its leadership were caught unaware by the sudden decision of their alliance partner BJP to withdraw support from the Mehbooba Mufti-led coalition government on Tuesday.
Thus, the move is being seen as a huge embarrassment to Mehbooba Mufti as well as to her regional party.
Th partners, what her father Mufti Muhammad Sayeed had termed as ‘North Pole and South Pole’, fell apart before the completion of the stipulated six-year term of the government.
The scepticism was only strengthened after the two parties publicly took sharply divergent paths on various issues, the latest being extending conditional ceasefire beyond Ramzan and resuming anti-militancy operations in the Valley.
The rift between the two sides came to the fore earlier also when Mehbooba Mufti turned down the BJP’s demand that the Kathua rape case probe be handed over to the CBI.
Two BJP ministers had even participated in a rally held in support of the accused. They were subsequently made to quit in the run-up to a reshuffle in the Council of Ministers but reportedly continued to be encouraged by the BJP leadership.
Local watchers see the BJP’s decision as an attempt to charm its constituency. The party had won almost all the 25 seats in the 2014 Assembly election.
On the other hand, the PDP’s support base in Kashmir Valley where from it won most of the 28 seats in its tally has eroded over the past three years because of them choosing the saffron party as its ally besides the unending killings in the Valley.
Ever since the two parties joined hands to form a government in 2015, they have publicly differed on the issues including Article 370 which guarantees special status to J&K within the Indian Union.
While the PDP would repeatedly say it will never allow dilution of this provision, the BJP would publicly vow that abrogation of Article 370 and its upshot including Article 35A was the ‘core agenda’ of the party.
Mufti took over as the chief minister of the restive state after a delay of nearly three months following the death of her father and PDP patron Sayeed in January 2015.
The reluctance to sit in the hot seat was projected by her party as a testimony of her not being ‘power hungry’ or an opportunist daughter. In fact, she herself went on record to say that she wanted certain J&K-specific “confidence building measures” before she could actually give a serious thought to stepping into her father’s shoes.
She also insisted on unspecified concessions and incentives as a prerequisite for government formation.
But finally, she held a ‘broader reconciliation’ meeting with Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, in New Delhi in March 2016 and returned home to proclaim her renewed fondness for the BJP which in turn asserted the one-on-one meeting between the two was an affirmation of mutual understanding.
Seemingly the 58-year-old Kashmiri leader whose rise was inextricably linked to her promoting an approach of “soft separatism”, favouring talks with separatists and Pakistan and even once choosing to mourn the deaths of militants at their homes chose for herself a tough path to tread upon.
By going with the ideologically-divergent BJP, perceived also as being anti-Muslim, by a majority of the voters who strongly favoured the PDP for its pro-Kashmiri stance in the elections to pre-empt a sort of coup d'état.
At that point in time, it was reported that internal strife and inclination among some of the PDP lawmakers to form the government with the BJP after bypassing rather swindling their leader prompted her to climb-down from her earlier stand and give in to the BJP.
However, she termed it as a preference of her soft options and reaffirmed that, like her father, she engaged the new reality of the country and chose for her the role of a practitioner of unpopular politics and swam against the tide in the ‘best interest’ of J&K and its people.
Going against the tide was not an easy task for her. Not only did she find it difficult to sell PDP’s “unnatural alliance” with the saffron party which was openly accused of being ‘anti-Kashmiri, anti-Muslim’.
Soon Mufti and her party found themselves in a very difficult situation particularly in its bastion south Kashmir where people started openly speaking against them, mainly over cobbling up an alliance with the BJP.
The killing of Burhan Wani in July 2016 was merely a trigger or venting point for the anger that was brewing in the Valley. Within the PDP, there had been, from day one, the realisation of the fact that going with the BJP to share power would be like steering the boat in the uncharted waters of murky Kashmir politics.
With the killing of civilians during protests and counterinsurgency operations by the security forces, maiming and blinding of many more in the use of shotgun pellets and other alleged atrocities going unabated, Mufti’s image as a politician crumbled further over past two years.
Also, despite having a track record of her own as an organisational leader, unlike her father, she lacked an effective and strong leadership in the sphere of administration. Her repeated attempts to reconnect with people failed mainly because of unending violence.
On Tuesday after submitting her resignation to the Governor, she tried to play the victim card but local watchers say Mufti may have pioneered PDP's stunning emergence on Kashmir's political scene at a time when the ground was bristling with the after-effects of the insurgency. She also managed to surprise everybody with her grit and endurance....