After plunging the security situation in Kashmir into the abyss, the BJP on Tuesday pulled down its own coalition government with the People’s Democratic Party in J&K. Major political parties are typically not known to do such things. Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti had no choice but to resign. She will probably be ruing that she hadn’t quit the coalition earlier despite her coalition partner’s escalating unpopularity, and waited to be shown the door by the BJP.
No alternative coalition government is possible in the present Assembly. With the PDP facing unpopularity for cohabiting with the BJP, the National Conference or the Congress are likely to steer clear from associating with it at this juncture. In any case, with the security matrix in J&K coming under great strain on the BJP’s watch (it’s the Centre which effectively handles security in J&K through the Army, paramilitary forces and intelligence agencies), and the situation coming to resemble the worst days of militancy in the early 1990s, any political party is apt to be apprehensive about shouldering the responsibility of governance since the attitude of the Centre is to apply the policy of militarism alone, and not political methods.
Central rule — which in J&K is known as Governor’s Rule — is thus in the offing. It’s very likely that, with the restraints of the presence of a regional Kashmir party now absent from the government, security policies of a harsher nature may be adopted. The BJP may even consider this an important factor in its preparation for the next Lok Sabha polls as it seeks to present to the country a “tough” and “no-nonsense” Kashmir policy in line with its “India First” approach. While announcing the withdrawal of support from the coalition government, BJP general secretary Ram Madhav, the party’s J&K coordinator appeared to put the blame on the PDP for being unresponsive to the concerns of the Jammu and Ladakh regions, from which the BJP hopes to attract sympathetic attention.
Will any of this cut ice? At the level of governance and security, not a leaf moves in J&K without the say-so of the Centre. But the BJP has national stakes in mind and is eager to persuade the country of its supposedly “strong” posture on Kashmir. The times ahead in Kashmir appear uncertain and grim. The traditional wisdom has been not to let the Centre confront J&K through direct rule, but to have an intermediary by way of an elected government to deflect shocks. The BJP has broken that rule and has brought about the demise of its own government just midway through its tenure.