Jammu and Ladakh in focus, BJP ends ‘untenable’ alliance with Kashmir-centric PDP

Arjun Sharma | Jun 17, 2018 | 6 min read




Arjun Sharma in Jammu


The Jammu and Kashmir government - a long precarious alliance between the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) - has fallen.


It is junior partner BJP that pulled the plug on Tuesday, with party general secretary Ram Madhav announcing at a press conference that “it has become untenable for the BJP to continue in the alliance government in the state”.


The spurt in terror violence in Kashmir and simmering discontent against the BJP not only in Jammu but also in Ladakh region are believed to be the causes that triggered the collapse.


The alliance itself was stitched in as many as three months after Assembly elections in December 2014 resulted in PDP emerging as the single-largest party with 28 seats and BJP following close behind, winning 25 seats in Jammu region in the wake of the Modi wave at that time.


‘Betrayal of trust’


BJP’s decision to ally with the PDP was then too seen by Jammu-based social and political organisations as a “betrayal” of the trust of the people of the region, who had voted for the saffron party wanting an end to the alleged hegemony of Muslim-dominated Kashmir over Hindu-dominated Jammu.


While Jammu often raised its voice against the perceived discrimination meted out to the region by successive Kashmir-centric political parties in power, Ladakh has been angry with the BJP over the Union Territory (UT) status promised to it ahead of the 2014 parliamentary polls. However, after victory at the Centre and thereafter in the J&K polls, the BJP brushed the matter of UT status to Ladakh under the carpet.


BJP’s image was further eroded in the eyes of Jammu a month ago, when the central government surprisingly accepted J&K chief minister Mebhooba Mufti’s proposal to suspend anti-terror operations in the state in the wake of Ramzaan. The saffron party drew much criticism for the move as anti-India activities were believed to have risen in the Kashmir region during the period. Many saw the decision as an anti-army order.


The two allies were, however, not on the same page over the duration of the ceasefire - while CM Mufti wanted it to continue till the Amarnath Yatra - scheduled to start on June 28 – the Modi government at the Centre ended it after Ramzaan and resumed the anti-terror ops.


Ladakh woes


The sole Member of Parliament of BJP from Ladakh, Thupstan Chhewang, stated to this correspondent that the Lok Sabha polls will not be a cakewalk for his party. “It will not be as easy as it was in 2014,” he said.


His concerns are valid as the BJP recently lost a prestigious bypoll on a seat of Ladakh Autonomous Hill development Council (LAHDC), Leh, held on June 4. The BJP candidate lost from the Shey-Thiksay segment.


Locals say there was anger against the party as it had not seen through its promise of UT status for Ladakh, the demand to open the Kailash Mansarovar route via Ladakh and inclusion of Bhoti language spoken in the region in the eighth schedule of the Constitution.


Yet, more than Ladakh, it is Jammu’s anger that can be more damaging for the BJP.


Be it the case of illegal Rohingya refugees settling in the region, or the failure to transfer the Kathua rape and murder case (which widened the BJP-PDP rift) to the Central Bureau of Investigation, or abrogation of Article 370 that provides special status to J&K – the BJP is being seen as a failure on all fronts. The removal of BJP ministers Choudhary Lal Singh and Chander Prakash Ganga, for taking part in a rally organised by the Hindu Ekta Manch ostensibly seeking a CBI probe into the Kathua case, had also sparked anger in Jammu.


Opponents also alleged that the BJP knelt down in front of the PDP.


While the party may have broken the alliance with PDP in the wake of the Lok Sabha elections next year, the damage in Jammu and Ladakh has already been done - even though the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) has stepped in to help the party renew its message and recover its appeal in Jammu and Ladakh regions.


What next?


The two allies have had a troubled relationship for long, one that many said was a marriage of convenience, and which former CM, the late Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, in 2015 termed as the meeting of south pole and north pole.


Tassaduq Mufti, minister for tourism in the PDP-BJP government and brother of Mehbooba Mufti, had stated in an interview to a national newspaper that “we (PDP) have ended up being partners in crime (with BJP) that an entire generation of Kashmiris might have to pay with their blood”. 


State BJP spokesperson Sunil Sethi on Tuesday said the PDP underestimated the BJP in thinking that the PDP will have its ways in all matters.


“The door has been rightly shown to it and all forces inimical to national interest,” he said. “The decision of the BJP to pull out of the government is well-thought in the given circumstances, as continuation of the alliance anymore would have hurt the national interest. Insistence of PDP on extension of ceasefire and its soft approach towards militants, Pakistan and separatists was only hurting the nationalistic sentiments not only in Jammu and Kashmir but in the whole country,” he added.  


According to professor Hari Om, a political commentator based in Jammu, the credibility of the BJP has been eroded in the state and there are few options left for the party to regain it before 2019.

“The case of illegal Rohingya refugees staying in Jammu, inquiry by the J&K crime branch and demand for a CBI inquiry in the Kathua case were the last nails in the BJP’s coffin. Now if it wants to restore its support base in Jammu, the central government needs to act on these issues,” he said.


Former state chief minister Omar Abdullah called for a conducive atmosphere for elections and said people should be given the opportunity to choose the party they want to run the state. “The way the government was working, it caused a restive situation,” he said.


Mufti on Tuesday submitted her resignation to the Governor, whose rule the BJP is now supporting.

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