BJP-PDP break-up: The worst is yet to come

A bad divorce doesn’t undo the damage of a disastrous wedlock.

WrittenBy:Anuradha Bhasin
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A marriage of convenience driven by petty self-interest is bound to break, sooner or later. But the pretext and the timing of the snapping of this wedlock between ideological opposites — Peoples Democratic Party and Bharatiya Janata Party — are significant. The final fall of the alliance was as hasty and ill-intentioned as its formation.


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The rise of the Hindu fascist powers in New Delhi, their ideology of communalism and politics of beef and love jehad, the invocation of Article 370, the shockingly shabby response of New Delhi to Kashmir’s devastating floods of 2014 formed the background of the historic but blundered formation of PDP-BJP alliance in Jammu and Kashmir at the fag end of 2014.

Both the central and the state governments proved to be a disaster for Kashmir. To be fair, both inherited from their predecessors a Kashmir while it was slipping into chaos but they contributed massively in hastening that descent into misery and hopelessness. The unprecedented hard-line approach, where the lines were obliterated between gun-wielding militants, the boys protesting with stones and ordinary civilians, use of bullets and pellet guns killing and maiming people in large numbers and the endless revolving door arrests inspired more anger and have created a situation where the gun has regained its place of glory in the psyche of ordinary Kashmiris, particularly the youth.

Raking of controversial issues like separate cluster colonies for Kashmiri Pandits, Sainik Colonies, Article 370 and Article 35-A further widened the unbridgeable trust deficit and revealed the lack of common ground between BJP and PDP. In fact, since the formation of this alliance, the tussle continued even over the most basic of development issues including the Goods and Services Tax and the All India Institute of Medical Science, and shockingly a case of rape and murder of a minor girl. Not only did such discourse add fuel to the existing fire in Kashmir, it also injected unprecedented venom in the existing communal discourse, particularly in Jammu region.

Bad marriages guarantee no conjugal bliss but not all divorces end the prolonged misery. They could even exacerbate it.

Can the breaking of this unholy alliance undo the massive damages wrought by it to Jammu and Kashmir’s socio-political landscape? Certainly, it cannot set back the hands of the clock or wish away the devastation that came during the three-and-a-half year long period when BJP and PDP, as Mehbooba Mufti’s brother and new entrant to politics, Tassaduq Hussain, aptly put it some months ago, ‘became partners in crime’.

If the motive behind the making of the alliance was to share the crumbs of power and pelf, what is the motive behind the break-up? Electoral politics. Most certainly, yes. The breaking of the alliance is a ploy that the BJP wishes to use in run-up to the Lok Sabha elections in 2019, for which BJP has nothing else to sell — as its development mantra and economic growth promises have miserably failed. Kashmir’s distressing security situation, communalisation of Jammu region and demonisation of the state’s Muslim population are low-hanging fruit for the BJP, which it can cash in on during the 2019 elections in a few months from now.

Kashmir narrative peppered with ultra-jingoism and ultra-nationalism is perfect fodder to appeal to the sensibilities of BJP’s communal constituency, which it is painstakingly trying to enlarge both vertically and horizontally. For the RSS-inspired BJP, Kashmir is both a project of long cherished idea of changing its demography and suppressing its Muslim population as well as a means to achieve its larger ambition to turn India into a Hindu Rashtra. A chaotic, violent and unstable Kashmir serves that end.

The history of power dynamics between successive central and state governments reveals the excessive manipulation of local politics by New Delhi, rendering the state governments as virtual puppets in the hands of the central government. But even the weakest of governments in the state can act as a feeble buffer to the excessively hardline policy of the central government. What the BJP has done by pulling out of the alliance is to discard that shrivel of an obstruction. Already, since 2014, the BJP government at the Centre has successfully employed far more brutal methods of suppressing Kashmiris, has ably used the Kashmir discourse of militarism, exaggerating the threat of ‘an enemy’ and demonisation of Kashmiris through its multiple levels of propaganda machinery for harnessing votes, capturing power and enlarging its footprints across India.

Militarisation and repression were already existing when it took over the reins of power. Impunity was exercised but mostly through denials. Under the BJP dispensation, it simply assumed a bold and brazen form. The admission of torture ever since has come with a sense of pride. Take for instance the case of Farooq Dar, the human shield, and the rewarding of the officer who paraded him around at the risk of making Dar’s life vulnerable and caused him a deep sense of humiliation. That act was celebrated by invoking the soldier’s valour. Similarly, the pellet guns discourse and its justification smack of celebrating torture. Critique of armed forces is treated akin to blasphemy and all rational questions stonewalled by equating soldier to the highest pedestal of ultra-nationalism and jingoism.

The alliance break-up is likely to exacerbate the sufferings of Kashmiris. Already some BJP leaders have started batting for an all-out hardline approach. Governor’s rule was imposed in the state, a day after the government fell. This gives BJP government at the Centre virtually direct control over Jammu and Kashmir with no regional party acting as even a delicate counter to the hardcore Hindutva narrative. Much will also depend on the next incumbent to Raj Bhavan as NN Vohra’s term ends later this month, though he is likely to get an extension of few months till the Amarnath yatra. Vohra is known to be a seasoned man but the baton will ultimately be passed on to another hand, in most probability someone who is ideologically suited to the RSS politics. At the same time, efforts are on to break away PDP and other legislators to enable the formation of a government headed by BJP in Jammu and Kashmir. That may be far more disastrous than the governor’s rule but also sounds wishful, as of now.  

This is the third time since the outbreak of insurgency that Governor’s rule has been imposed. It was imposed in 1990 for a prolonged period. In 2008, the governor’s rule was imposed when the state was caught in the midst of the polarising Amarnath land row. It was again imposed when Mehbooba Mufti showed reluctance in carrying on with the alliance after her father’s death in 2016.

The history of governor’s rule since 1989 shows that the state’s security situation and human rights track record have worsened during such periods. With a party driven by communal ideology in the saddle, Jammu and Kashmir under the governor’s rule once again appears to have taken a step forward into its darkest moment, perhaps.   

What, however, remains inexplicable at the moment is the month-long ceasefire and the unconditional dialogue offer wrapped in all the typical Right-wing ambiguity. The ceasefire on ground was meaningless but was inspiring feeble hopes of a possibility of creation of an enabling atmosphere for peace process. The design behind this pretence of flexibility may take time to be revealed. Or was it just the case of the proverbial calm before the storm?

In most likelihood, the Centre is likely to push for a more hardline policy in Kashmir, while the RSS and other Hindutva affiliates will leave no stone unturned in enhancing communal polarisation in Jammu. When Ram Madhav spoke about the reasons for pulling out of the alliance, he pulled the cat out of the bag when he spoke excessively about the formation of the alliance and the Kashmir situation hampering the development interests of Jammu and Ladakh. There could not have been a more open admission of its communal agenda. His logic of differences with PDP over ceasefire extension is also untenable because the BJP government had already made the decision of terminating the ceasefire public. The PDP was making no attempts to override it, nor did it have the power to do so. Both these reasons offered by Ram Madhav show that the BJP was simply looking for an excuse.

The future script of this ongoing soap opera can be easily predicted. But that does not reduce the shock-value of the BJP’s style of politics that treats the most sensitive and delicate state in the country as a ploy in furtherance of its electoral fortunes. One can await the next phase in Jammu and Kashmir only with a sense of dread and bated breath.  


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