Marriage of saffron and green in Jammu and Kashmir encouraging
By Syed Ubaidur Rahman
Can saffron marry green? Is coming together of staunchly nationalist party with another political party espousing soft separatism possible in India?
If you thought that it was impossible, you were simply wrong. Politics is the name of impossibilities looking very possible, and it brings together strange alliances. India saw one of the weirdest such electoral alliances in the history of the country when Mufti Mohammad Sayeed led Peopleâ€™s Democratic Alliance (PDP) entered into an alliance with Bhartiya Janta Party, to cobble together a government that looked impossible, given the fractured mandate in the state.
BJP that has always remained a marginal player in the troubled state of Jammu and Kashmir amazed political pundits when it went on to win 26 assembly seats â€“all of them from Jammu region â€“ in the elections conducted a few months ago.
Mufti Muhammad Sayeed and Mahbooba Muftiâ€™s party (PDP) that emerged as the single largest party in the assembly, failed to win a single seat from the Jammu region. With the Congress party being marginalized in the state like the rest of the country, and Farooq Abdullah led National Conference (NC) a sort of untouchable for PDP- given their differences â€“the only workable alliance that made sense was between PDP and the BJP.
Till even the eleventh hour when the coalition government was finalized and the deal signed, there were rumors that it was going to end in divorce before even consummation of marriage. There are many naysayers who still claim that the marriage is going to end in a miscarriage, though, the alliance passed its first test when Mufti Saeed thanked Pakistan, Hurriyet Conference and the ultras by claiming that they allowed the peaceful election in the state.
The second test too didnâ€™t come too late either. Some MLAâ€™s from PDP asked the government to bring back Afzal Guru’s mortal remains from New Delhiâ€™s Tihar Jail. Amazingly BJP didnâ€™t make it an issue.
The two parties tried their best to include their agenda in the common minimum program that is going to be the guiding document of the alliance in the state. Nonetheless, after lengthy negotiations that continued for more than three months, the two parties and their leadership agreed to uphold status quo on almost all the major issues.
BJP has been claiming for decades that it will scrap the provision of Article 370 related to the autonomy of the Jammu and Kashmir state within Indian federation. It was on its election agenda as well. But the alliance partners have agreed to maintain the status quo on it. Another contentious issue â€“a stumbling block in coming together of the two sides â€“was regarding the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act.
PDP has asserted that Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act should end and that it will scrap it as soon as it comes to power. Another stumbling block in the way of alliance was status of refugees from West Pakistan in the state. But all three issues have been kept on the backburner wrapped in sugar-coated phrases to keep their respective support base satisfied.
Nonetheless it has been observed that both the parties, and above all the BJP, are very keen to keep the marriage intact. This was more than evident when BJP played down Muftiâ€™s statement regarding Pakistan in his very first press conference after being sworn as the chief minister of the state. Prem Shankar Jha, one of the leading Indian analysts, while writing in a social media post defends Sayeed by saying, â€œPakistan could have tried to disrupt the elections, but chose not to. As a result there had not been a single death in the valley in pre-election violenceâ€¦This was not because Pakistan had suddenly begun to love India, but because it is involved in a life and death struggle with sectarian terrorists on its border with Afghanistan, and does not want to do risk having to open a second front in Kashmir or the Indian border.
He further says, â€œPakistan needs peace with India to win its battle in the west. There could not therefore be a better time to renew the search for a resolution of the Kashmir dispute. It is something that all of us can only gain fromâ€.
Not everyone is happy with PDP forming the alliance with BJP, a staunchly Hindu nationalist party. Dr Siddiq Wahid, a political commentator was quoted in Scroll.in as saying, â€œThe PDP has lost a historic opportunity to form an alliance with parties which do not have the long-term agenda of a Hindu nationalist India and, more importantly, reveal to Jammu that it need not have Hindu legislators to experience equity in political justice, economic equity and civic amenitiesâ€.
The optimism regarding alliance across the country gives hope to people that despite conflicting interests and ideologies that are poll apart, coming together was possible and co-existence viable.
(Syed Ubaidur Rahman is a New Delhi based writer and commentator. He can be reached at Syedurahman@gmail.com)
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