The least bad option for J & K’s political future

In the current state of suspense, the least bad option out of a political stalemate is for PDP to join with Congress with outside support from National Conference

Dark clouds are looming on the horizon of political landscape in J & K. After the death of Mr. Mufti Mohammed Sayeed last month, there has been a stalemate between his daughter and political heir apparent of his People’s Democratic Party(PDP), Ms. Mehbooba Mufti and the coalition partner BJP. The BJP-PDP combine came together after the elections in December 2014 based on Mufti’s understanding that the ‘agenda of alliance’ will eschew controversial issues.  Little did PDP realise that the alliance would reach a breaking point within a year. It is no secret that PDP has steadily lost the goodwill in the valley. If Mufti was the glue that held the alliance together, the same cannot be said of Mehbooba.

In all fairness, laying the entire blame on Mehbooba also would not be correct. She does not enjoy the same level of confidence with the population as her father. The local BJP leadership also has played an active role in vitiating the atmosphere. Beef politics, flying of Indian national flag alongside the J & K flag, and the entry of RSS into the valley have all the indications of fringe elements moving into mainstream. The centre, on its part, has done precious little to assuage the apprehensions of the people. Sensing that the situation would come to a boil if not addressed immediately, Governor NN Vohra gave an ultimatum to both the BJP and PDP on February 1.

By all indications, the PDP-BJP alliance is dead. Even if amends were to be made, it would at best remain patchy with both sides resorting to brinksmanship time and again. The current composition of the 87 member assembly is—PDP-28, BJP-25, JKNC-15, INC-12, Independents-4, CPI(M)-1, People’s Democratic Front-1. The combinations that are available will be as follows.

Option 1- BJP-PDP come to a rapprochement and move ahead. Unlikely.

Option 2- The BJP withdraws support. Tries to form government with JKNC by convincing Omar Abdullah, the independents, and the PDF to reach the halfway mark of 44. Impossible. Omar has gone on record to say that the BJP is not the same when it was under Vajpayee. Despite their earlier partnership in NDA I, their present differences are irreconcilable.

Option 3- BJP withdraws support. Congress joins PDP. JKNC provides outside support to Mehbooba. Tough to work out but certainly worth a try in the absence of any better option. As the two have been together in a coalition government from 2002-8 when the Congress ditched PDP to align with NC, differences can be ironed out.  It will be worth recalling that Congress was the first to offer support to PDP after the elections in 2014. This would also present the Congress to claim some political space. Omar will need convincing for outside support.

Option 4- BJP withdraws support. PDP fails to convince any other party for outside support. Governor’s rule is imposed.  Worst that can happen. Elections can be held only after a certain period in which the valley will be thrown into complete turmoil.

Of all the options, option 3, though an out-of-the-box arrangement, seems the least bad option. The people of J & K deserve a stable government. Mehbooba owes it to them.

Guru Aiyar is a research scholar with Takshashila Institution and tweets @guruaiyar

Featured Image: Sonamarg, Kashmir by Partha Sahana, licensed from creativecommons.org