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Dysfunctional alliance?

Dysfunctional alliance?

The Jammu and Kashmir Assembly was adjourned sine die earlier this week following unprecedented bedlam over Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti's remarks that attempts to weaken Article 370 of the Constitution, which grants special status to the state, were the biggest "anti-national act". "There are some forces within this country who think that by scrapping Article 370, the issue of Kashmir will be resolved and everything will be alright...We need to work together to save the composite culture which Article 370 protects," Mufti had said in the Assembly on January 30. Legislators from the BJP, which is in coalition with Mehbooba's Peoples Democratic Party, supported a motion that the Speaker expunge the words "anti-national" from the house proceedings.

Instead of stellar governance, profound ideological differences between the coalition partners have marked the tenure of this unnatural union. The BJP's desire to expunge her statement reflects a disconcerting lack of confidence in the Chief Minister. When the alliance was formed in 2015, the incumbent's late father, Mufti Muhammad Sayeed, had called it a "meeting of the North Pole and the South Pole". It was an alliance born out of necessity due to the even split in numbers. Both sides went on to form a government that accommodated the mandate of Jammu, which had voted overwhelmingly for the BJP, and of Kashmir, which went with the PDP. With support from the Centre, there was hope that a productive dialogue on Pakistan, the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, and Article 370, allied with desperately needed economic development for the region, would allow the strife-torn region to turn a new leaf. Alas, this has not been in the case. In the 11-page Common Minimum Programme, which drafted before the alliance was formalised, both sides had decided to maintain the status quo on contentious issues like Article 370, which the BJP stood to abrogate. Instead of dealing with these deep-rooted ideological differences, the present arrangement has only accentuated the Kashmir-Jammu divide, which is both regional and religious in nature. The recent episode marks yet another chapter of this seemingly dysfunctional government.

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