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The end of an uneasy alliance

The BJP-PDP government in Jammu and Kashmir came to an abrupt end on Tuesday after the BJP leadership decided to pull out of the government. The alliance that was stitched together in 2015 lasted for nearly three years and gave a semblance of a civilian government in the militancy-hit state. The ideological differences between the two parties proved a stumbling block in the smooth functioning of the government. Though the two parties had worked out a common minimum programme, the going was never easy because of the fundamental difference in the way they looked at core issues. BJP which won 25 seats in the 2015 Assembly election in a house of 87 members was exuberant at the fact that it emerged as the second largest party in a state where the voters were extremely polarised on Hindu-Muslim divide. It took a shot at forming the government and managed to rope in a reluctant PDP for an alliance. By being in the government for three years, BJP not only earned a greater legitimacy but also established itself as an important political force in the state. Both Congress and National Conference, which played a key role in the state's politics, were relegated to the margins. In the three years of their rule, the coalition government was not able to bring about a marked change in the ground reality, with the security situation worsening with each passing day. The Centre had given the armed forces a free hand in dealing with the militants and the state government was virtually reduced to doing nothing. It was a frustrating situation for the government when the people of the state wanted the government to tackle their problems on a war footing but the government did not have the freedom to take any path-breaking decisions. The people were agitating and clashing with security forces, resulting in injuries and casualties on a daily basis, and the state government stood silently. On its part, the state government appealed to the agitators to maintain peace and gave amnesty to first-time stone pelters, the ground situation never improved. The state government also appealed to the Centre to hold talks with Pakistan in order to bring peace in the state but it never materialised in the face of hostilities along the international border with Pakistan. The problem only compounded recently with both Pakistan and militants in Kashmir stepping up hostilities. Though the Centre took a bold decision and with the beginning of Ramadan announced a ceasefire against the militants hoping that it will give the insurgents a chance to mend their ways, the initiative did not bring about the desired results and the Centre had to call off the ceasefire as soon as the holy month of Ramazan ended. The Centre had announced the ceasefire on the appeal of Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti and had hoped to extend it beyond Ramadan if it helped improve the situation. But, the ceasefire initiative achieved little for bringing peace. As protests and violence continued in the state, the Centre had no option but give the armed forces the power to act against the troublemakers. Though BJP's decision to pull out of the alliance with PDP was sudden, it was a well-thought-out decision on their part to allow the Centre a free hand in the state's affairs at a time when the state government was proving ineffective to make a breakthrough. For a long time, the Centre has depended on regional parties in its bid to placate and carry along the disgruntled elements in the state. But the policy has not served any purpose apart from allowing these parties to rule the state without any accountability on the issue of rising militancy and violence. Over the period, these regional parties came to become a political front for the troublemakers and often sympathised with their cause. BJP which is in power at the Centre and wields a significant influence in the state may turn the table if it rules the state on its own. It may introduce a regime of zero-tolerance against militancy and send a message to the agitating people that their illegal demands will not be entertained at all. For now, there is going to be Governor's rule in the state, which in effect means the BJP-ruled Centre would formulate policies for the state. The Centre's focus is on development and the last time when Prime Minister Narendra Modi was in the state, he inaugurated a slew of projects including the Rs 6,809-crore Zojila Pass tunnel project. This may be an indication of the change that the Centre is mulling for the state.

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