OPINION
J&K – RAM MADHAV LEAVES SPACE FOR MEHBOOBA’S POLITICS
Three years on, PDP-BJP alliance sailing smooth; Ram Madhav makes room for Mehbooba’s domestic constituency
- S Pal & Nischay Pal*
Three years on, PDP-BJP alliance sailing smooth; Ram Madhav makes room for Mehbooba’s domestic constituency



AT A TIME when the BJP and the PDP are taking diametrically opposite positions on some of the most crucial questions and issues faced by Jammu and Kashmir, the BJP today committed itself again to the alliance, calling it smooth.

"(I)n spite of (all the) ideological and issue-based differences, the two parties have been able to run affairs quite smoothly," Ram Madhav, BJP's general secretary in charge of Jammu and Kashmir, has said. Madhav is largely known to be the architect of this alliance.

In a wide-ranging interview to the Indian Express, Madhav, who is the BJP's pointsman for not just J&K but also the insurgency hit states in the North East, said, "One can always say we could have done better. But in J-K, the situation is always changing... you have challenge after challenge. Today, we have been able to bring peace to the Valley. Barring attacks by militants, the Valley is peaceful."

"The two parties are working in perfect tandem. No alliance is easy, most have small issues… you have seen it in Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh. Even traditional partners have issues. Compared to that, the alliance has had smooth sailing," he said.

But it was Madhav's response to CM Mehbooba Mufti's publicly expressed view of advocating talks with Pakistan to stop the frequent terror attacks in the state that is being seen as an example of extreme pragmatism in politics.

"Talking or not talking to Pakistan is not for the Jammu and Kashmir alliance to decide," Ram Madhav said, adding that the Centre will decide it. But he left enough room for Mehbooba to cater to her domestic constituency, saying, "Mehboobaji can have a view, because she feels that if the two governments talk to each other, there could be de-escalation of violence. But the alliance cannot take a view, its view is limited to the affairs of the state."
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Madhav's response to CM Mehbooba Mufti's publicly expressed view of advocating talks with Pakistan to stop the frequent terror attacks in the state is being seen as an example of extreme pragmatism in politics.
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"Having said that, there can be a view that talks are necessary for restoring peace along the LoC. This does not mean that Pakistan will get away with all the wrongdoing," Madhav said, adding, "If the CM feels India-Pakistan talks will help contain infiltration and bring peace in the Valley, allow her to have her view. But she is not going to decide it."

Madhav's comments, coming at a time when the alliance is marking its third anniversary and many see it as cracking at the seams, is an indication that the Narendra Modi-Amit Shah duo is determined to persist with it for the next two years.

In fact, so keen has been the BJP to ensure the survival of the alliance that barely a couple of months after Ram Madhav said the Centre will never talk to separatists who use 'Kashmir as guinea pigs,' he made a somersault and said the PDP-BJP government as well as the Modi government were open a dialogue with all stakeholders, including separatists. (https://goo.gl/3wtxJh) 

A political analyst who has reported from Kashmir for more than a decade said the BJP would not like to be seen as breaking the alliance.

"There are twin reasons for it. First, it knows that pulling out of the alliance will leave space for either the National Conference, which is committed to never working with BJP again, or the more militant forces. Also, it will push the PDP to pick up a harsher strain of politics in its zeal to prove that not an iota of saffron has rubbed on it," the analyst told Punjab Today.

Also, he added, the BJP is keen to make an argument that it can work with the most difficult of the alliance partners, and if completes its term with the PDP, then it will always have an argument against any Shiv Sena or Akali Dal that it knows how to be accommodative. 
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The BJP knows pulling out of the alliance will make space for the National Conference, or the more militant forces, besides pushing the PDP to pick up a harsher strain of politics to prove that not a grain of saffron has rubbed on it. Also, the BJP is keen to show it can work with most difficult of the alliance partners. 
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With the PDP, Ram Madhav said the BJP did not have any major contradiction "as far as governance issues are concerned."

But the BJP knows it cannot be seen a towing the PDP line on filing FIRs against perceived guitly army officers.

"As far as naming of the Army official in the FIR is concerned, we said it’s a wrong step," Madhav said, but seemed wary of being seen as pulling the rug from underneath the CM's feet.

"But you must remember, an FIR is not a statement of guilt. When any congnisable offence takes place, police are bound to file an FIR… This FIR only says so and so officer led a battalion of the Army through that area when the incident took place...Legally, remedial measures will be taken. But if one says FIR should not be there, the law does not permit it," he said.

Clearly, the BJP is largely sticking to its narrative that there is no rift in the BJP-PDP alliance government, a line Ram Madhav had propounded in April last year, and later reiterated.

In May last year, Ram Madhav had met CM Mufti at her residence amid growing differences between the coalition partners over several key issues, including talks with separatists. Even at that time, the alliance seemed to be at a breaking point.

Speculation about the PDP and BJP heading for a break-up never died down all through the alliance (https://goo.gl/x3aUCM), and incidents such as strapping a civilian to an army vehicle as a human shield against stone-pelters on the day of the Srinagar by-polls had sparked an open spat between the two.
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Is the PDP-BJP alliance one of opportunism, or a beauty of democratic politics where rank opponents can find space to work together? After all, in Punjab, the Akali Dal, wedded to the idea of "Sikh Ikk Vakhri Quom," is in alliance with a party that says "Garv Se Kaho Hum Hindu Hain." The contradictions haunt the Badals often, and some see they have become a little saffron in the process. 
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Senior PDP minister Altaf Bukhari had taken strong exception to Ram Madhav justifying the human shield incident by saying "everything is fair in love and war”.

Bukhari had called it a sympton of "a hyper-nationalist environment." 

The real reason, said a senior Srinagar-based journalist, is that the PDP was worried it has lost much ground in the Valley because of its coalition with the BJP. 

BJP MP Subramanian Swamy’s tweet about de-populating the Valley and sending Kashmiris to refugee camps in Tamil Nadu to curb protests never found a strong repudiation from Modi-Shah-Madhav trio.

Another senior journalist, Vipin Pubby, a former resident editor of the Indian Express and someone who has closely tracked Jammu and Kashmir and reported from ground zero, said the PDP-BJP alliance government's failure to have "an internal dialogue among Kashmir stakeholders" was a major failure.

PDP needs to push its saffron partner to work on its Kashmir-centric poll planks, including taking up the "internal dialogue" venture, talking about demilitarisation of the Valley and re-thinking on stance towards talks with Pakistan, he said. 
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In Punjab, Badals can be hailing Justin Trudeau for Canada's commitment to freedom of speech and his government’s close ties with the Sikh community, while Amarinder Singh can be a partner in the nationalist BJP's snub to anti-India activities in Canada. So, who is whose partner can sometimes be very confusing. 
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But Madhav's latest reiteration of the solidity of the alliance with PDP does give hope that the two parties are determined to salvage what can be from a bad situation. Their success or failure will determine if the PDP-BJP alliance was one of opportunism, or a beauty of democratic politics where rank opponents can find space to work together.

After all, in Punjab, the Akali Dal, which is wedded to the idea of "Sikh Ikk Vakhri Quom" is in alliance with a party that says "Garv Se Kaho Hum Hindu Hain." The contradictions haunt the Badals often, but they have managed to work alongside the Big Brother, though becoming a little saffron in the process. 

Democracy, as they say, is a negotiation in a contested space, and whether or not Mehbooba Mufti will be seen as having been saffronised in the process will be decided more by domestic politics and less by Pakistan. 

In Punjab, Badals can be hailing Justin Trudeau for Canada's commitment to freedom of speech, and Amarinder Singh can be a partner in the nationalist BJP's snub to anti-India activities in Canada. So, who is whose partner can sometimes be very confusing. 

Around this time last year, Mehbooba Mufti had pitched for the revocation of AFSPA, arguing that it was needed to create a "window of peace" but Madhav had hit back, saying AFSPA was not imposed out of fun. 

As PDP-BJP mark the third anniversary of their wedding, it does seem that for the moment, Ram Madhav is a partner of CM Mufti. 

(*With contribution by freelance journalist Chakshan Charun) 
 

Disclaimer : PunjabToday.in and other platforms of the Punjab Today group strive to include views and opinions from across the entire spectrum, but by no means do we agree with everything we publish. Our efforts and editorial choices consistently underscore our authors' right to the freedom of speech. However, it should be clear to all readers that individual authors are responsible for the information, ideas or opinions in their articles, and very often, these do not reflect the views of PunjabToday.in or other platforms of the group. Punjab Today does not assume any responsibility or liability for the views of authors whose work appears here.

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