Mehbooba Must Build Bridges With the Centre - The India Saga



Mehbooba Must Build Bridges With the Centre

“ Article112.pngWith the BJP firmly committing itself to the “”Agenda of Alliance”” and reticent about the confidence building measures proposed…

Mehbooba Must Build Bridges With the Centre

Article112.pngWith the BJP firmly committing itself to the “”Agenda of Alliance”” and reticent about the confidence building measures proposed by Mehbooba Mufti following the death of her father Mufti Mohammad Sayeed in January left the heir apparent no option but to take oath of office and secrecy as chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir on April 4. This time Governor’s rule lasted 87 days in the sensitive border state. Mehbooba could not have pushed her luck any further as the chances of a revolt against her in the PDP was brewing. Had it erupted and come into the open, it would have been disastrous for the PDP as the Mufti’s legacy in the only Muslim majority state in the country would have come to nought. In the event of a snap poll that she had cautioned her party time and time again, it was no secret that the PDP would have lost the plot. The advantage would have rested with her rival National Conference and the Congress to make a comeback bid.

Finally, Mehbooba has come out of the shadows enjoying the distinction of being the first woman chief minister of J & K. Caught in a delicate situation, she has to tread guardedly between the cacophony of the separatists on the one side and the unthinkable aspect of getting the North Pole and the South Pole especially the PDP-BJP combine working in tandem for development and progress rather than pushing their extreme ideologies. On his part Prime Minister Narendra Modi after returning from Saudi Arabia telephoned Mehbooba and assured full cooperation and financial assistance from the centre. She told her council of ministers that her mission is to realise the vision of her father of “”a peaceful, prosperous and stable J & K.”” Interestingly, she conceded having more BJP ministers in her council of ministers.

No sooner than she had assumed the office of chief minister she was staring at a flare up in the National Institute of Technology (NIT) in Srinagar where a section of students were roughed up. The matter should have best been left to the NIT administration. But that was not to be given the penchant for central intervention by the HRD ministry under the charge of Smriti Irani. It posed a challenge to Mehbooba’s leadership in ensuring that the situation did not go out of hand along with soothing ruffled feathers so that calm prevailed. It has become apparent that the unwarranted Central intervention has added to the Valley’s sense of bias against Delhi. Such interventions took place in other institutions of higher learning like the JNU in the national capital and the Central University in Hyderabad attracting national attention and complicating matters. Growing instances of intolerance in higher institutions of learning must be curbed rather than fanning it with the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, the student wing of the BJP, in the forefront backed by the fringe elements of the Sangh Parivar.

The crisis in Srinagar brings to the fore the divisive politics of nationalism. The dangers of such tactics cannot be overlooked. The bottom line is for the PDP and BJP to work in concert for instilling confidence among the people at large. Considering the rising militancy in J & K there is mounting frustration in the Valley. The Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) is complicated as it pertains to the protection required by the Army and whether they should be redeployed out of relatively calm areas. The Supreme Court has already laid down strict guidelines for counter terrorism operations that has contributed to adequate decline in human rights violations by the military. In Jammu and Kashmir the clamour is for according priority to police reforms.

At the first cabinet meeting chaired by her earlier this week on Monday, Mehbooba announced people welfare measures like doubling the ration from 5 Kg to 10 Kg per person involving an annual additional expenditure of Rs 1500 crores to an enhanced population of 1.19 crores. Pensions have also been raised by 30% for those between 85 to 90 years, 40% for those between 90-95 years, 50% to those in 95-100 age group and 100% for the centurians and above. Travel allowance has also been revised from Rs 15000 to Rs 20,000 per month for the Durbar move with immediate effective. Mehbooba wants to fulfil her father’s wish of making J&K a welfare state. Mehbooba needs to generate goodwill for herself in all the three distinct regions — Kashmir, Jammu and Ladakh — of the state peculiar to J&K alone.

Simultaneously, she has to build bridges with the centre. It is in this context her meeting with the Prime Minister on Wednesday assumes importance. She reminded Modi of his desire to make J&K a model state. She requested him to include Srinagar and Jammu in the plan of making them part of the “”Smart Cities Mission”” of the Urban Development ministry. Looking back it makes immense sense why the Mufti as a tall leader preferred having an alliance with the BJP led NDA government on the majestic Raisina Hill in the national capital. After mulling over matters for 90 days from January to March last year, the Mufti proposed an unimaginable tie up with the BJP without which he was convinced the centre would have throttled J&K for direly needed financial resources.
Going with the Congress or anyone else for that matter was not a viable option. Considering his tall stature as a leader in J&K, no one dare oppose him openly despite the underlying resentment in his party. There is no doubt despite the stone walling by the BJP on the CBMs that Mehbooba direly wanted to put in place, she had to necessarily take the plunge of forming the government despite the challenges it presented. Politics is the art of the possible. Lets wait and see.

(T R Ramachandran is a senior journalist and commentator. The views expressed here are personal.)