Millennium Post

Tricky J&K alliance

The new Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed on Sunday thanked Pakistan, militants and the Hurriyat for allowing elections to be held in the state. His comments were followed by a predictable outburst from opposition parties. Sayeed’s statement, however, also gave us a glimpse of the challenges the new Bharatiya Janata party-Peoples Democratic Party coalition government faces. Allied with his remarks, though, the ceremony itself raised eyebrows after former separatist Sajjad Lone was inducted into the state cabinet. Unfortunately the BJP’s attempts at cooling opposition tempers have not borne much fruit.

Critics of the new coalition government have pointed out that the alliance between both political entities may not necessarily be a good one. They believe that the present arrangement will only accentuate the Kashmir-Jammu divide, since governance in the state will be predicated on religious identity. Leaders from both parties, however, are keen to dismiss these claims. “There was an opportunity to bring the people of Jammu and the Valley closer. As Mufti pointed out, the geographical distance can be covered in six hours; but the emotional distance couldn’t be bridged in 60 years.

We are also presented with the opportunity to decimate the emotional barriers between J&K and the rest of the country,” said senior BJP leader Ram Madhav, who led the negotiations with the PDP for government formation in Jammu and Kashmir. With support from the Centre, there is hope that a productive dialogue process with Pakistan, allied with much required economic development for the region, will allow the strife-torn region to turn a new leaf. It is clear that this coalition will be one of the most scrutinised state governments, considering the manner in which Sayeed’s comments caused a storm.

The assembly elections had thrown up a complex verdict. It is clear that any government without the BJP’s participation would have meant the exclusion of Jammu’s mandate. The electoral outcome, though, was best described the coalition’s Common Minimum Programme document.  “The results of these elections have been judged as fractured and indecisive by everyone. The reality is that it is not the mandate of political parties that is fractured; it is the polity of J&K that is fractured. Instead of being judgemental about these electoral results, the PDP and the BJP have made efforts to understand the verdict in all its complexity,” it said. Although this statement may not inspire much confidence, it nonetheless does point to certain intent from both sides to make this coalition work.

Both sides have agreed to maintain status quo on Article 370, besides paving a way for State Subject status for refugees from Pakistan Occupied Kashmir. On the controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act, both sides have reportedly suggested a way forward by first denotifying the Disturbed Areas Act in certain phases. Key to the coalition’s success, however, will be maintaining peace in the region. In this regard, Mufti’s emphasis on extending the olive branch to Pakistan and the Hurriyat must not be lost in the faux pas he committed by including militants on the list. Militant elements clearly do not deserve a place on the table. For the peace process, though, key stakeholders like the Hurriyat and Pakistan, must be included. 
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