Millennium Post

For a sane coalition in Jammu and Kashmir

After a three-month hiatus, the people of Jammu and Kashmir will have a government in Srinagar. In all likelihood, that government will be a coalition of the People’s Democratic Party and the Bharatiya Janata Party (PDP-BJP). This will be an example of how sane politics respects a popular democratic mandate.

When the government is finally formed this week – as expected – it will bring up an example how two contending political parties, vertically opposed to each other, learn to conduct the business of governance together. To wit, the BJP that had for long demanded the annulment of Article 370 – giving special status to J&K - of the Constitution; and a PDP that believed in ‘soft’ militancy for ‘self-rule’ (albeit within the Constitution of India) can come together and give the people of the troubled Valley a political option, outside of the vortex of violence.

Both sides took some time to arrive at a deal. It was stuck on two major demands that held up any attempts at forging an alliance: Article 370 for BJP and the PDP’s demand for the withdrawal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA).

Both parties have decided to keep both these on hold – the BJP by ‘temporarily’ jettisoning the article and the PDP by postponing a total withdrawal of AFSPA. This deal will hopefully now allow the people of the Valley to have a chief minister in Mufti Mohammad Syed, a man connected to the social, cultural and political mores of the state.

An Indian Express report on Sunday, which discussed the planned Common Minimum Programme (CMP) between the PDP and BJP in some detail,  presented some insight into it how both sides arrived at a deal. Negotiators, led by general secretary of the BJP Ram Madhav, have the deal vetted by the RSS leadership, though some unnamed BJP sources in the report have stated that the party has not given up any of its demands.

A strong lobby of PDP MLAs, who had serious reservations about joining hands with the BJP, have now been mollified. Clearly, the three months the two groups took to formulate a political deal, leading up to a possible stable government, allowed both sides to strike a common democratic ground that can silence the guns – both of the terrorists and security forces.

Mufti himself, the quintessential deal-maker, who had held up the standard of a the Congress Party, in an increasingly hostile Valley for long, before parting ways, is considered to be a saving grace by the people. Mufti’s approach is in polar opposition to the imperial court-style politics of Omar Abdullah.

The electoral reality had thrown up the possibility of a Jammu, which voted overwhelmingly in favour of the BJP-RSS combination of politics. It had also thrown up a Valley, which witnessed an outright rejection of the National Conference, though in some pockets it did get some seats.

Yet, this verdict had to create a democratic option that even the security forces could welcome. A large number of senior leaders in uniform had wanted politicians to stand up and be counted after they put a check on terrorism in the Valley. The remarkable turn-around in the security situation had created the space for politicians to act. With Mufti planning to arrive in New Delhi on Monday, the Narendra Modi-led government should promise him all the support to successfully govern the state. 

This is the moment that needs to be seized. The alliance must sow the seeds for long-term peace.
The remaining pockets of support within the Valley for separation, militancy and terrorism, need to be stymied. The CMP that has been drafted emphasises, on account of the PDP, talks with the Hurriyat leaders. For, for a long time a sane section of the Hurriyat, led by the leaders like Mirwaiz Farooq, have been ascribing to themselves a role that traversed on the middle ground – where cross-border militancy and terrorism do not dominate.

What remains now is a vision for the next six years that deals with the economic demands of the populace.
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