By pulling out of the ruling coalition in Jammu and Kashmir on Tuesday, the Bharatiya Janata Party has lost a state and an ally. Nevertheless, it chose to snap ties with the People’s Democratic Party in the belief that the move will shore up political support for the saffron party outside the border state as it heads into Lok Sabha election in less than a year.
Now that Jammu and Kashmir has been placed under governor’s rule, the Indian army and other security agencies will be directed by the Modi government to step up their operations against separatists and militants. The increase in militancy-related violence and the deteriorating situation along the Line of Control have given sufficient reason to the Centre to persist with its muscular policy in Jammu and Kashmir.
The Modi government has been further emboldened after the brutal killing of journalist Shujaat Bukhari and several security personnel as it believes its policy will meet with approval from a large section of the electorate while its critics will find themselves in a minority.
‘Tough on terror’
Coming at a time when the BJP is seen to be losing ground following a series of recent electoral defeats, the party’s game plan is to keep the focus on the issue of national security and draw maximum political mileage from its “tough on terror” policy both in the coming assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh and in next year’s general election. The BJP does not mind suffering electoral losses in Jammu and Kashmir, which accounts for six Lok Sabha seats, but it is hoping its tough talking on terror will help it make electoral gains in other states.
“We could witness fresh Hindu consolidation in favour of the BJP, especially in Uttar Pradesh, if it succeeds in hardselling its national security plank to the people in the elections,” remarked a former BJP leader from Uttar Pradesh.
There is also a lurking fear in the opposition camp that besides giving a free hand to the armed forces, the Modi government could go a step further and repeal Article 370, which gives special status to Jammu and Kashmir, a long standing item on the agenda of the BJP’s ideological mentor, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.
“Further, the BJP will be in a win-win situation if it is able to rehabilitate even a small number of displaced Kashmiri Pandits in the state,” said a Congress leader from Punjab.
The BJP was compelled to walk out of its partnership with the PDP as the Modi government has been under attack for failing to evolve a cogent policy on Jammu and Kashmir, which resulted in escalating violence in the state and alienating the Kashmiri people. The BJP could not escape responsibility for the worsening situation in the state as it is in power at the Centre and was a coalition partner in the state government. Prime Minister Narendra Modi was personally in the line of fire for not acting on the party’s public resolve to find a lasting solution to the festering Kashmir issue.
Now that it has walked out of the ruling alliance, the BJP can no longer fall back on the excuse that the Centre was constrained from taking tough measures against militants because of pressure from former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti.
In fact, the statement put out by Ram Madhav, BJP national general secretary, announcing the party’s decision to end its alliance with the PDP, gave sufficient indication that the party will distance itself from Mehbooba Mufti’s policies and instead put her in the dock for her failure to manage the state effectively.
Maintaining that the Centre had made all-out efforts towards peace and development in Jammu and Kashmir, Ram Madhav blamed the state government for its inability to “address the core issues of the state. “
“The security scenario has deteriorated causing serious concern about the protection of basic fundamental rights of life, free speech etc. Daylight murder of a respected editor like Shujat Bukhari in the heart of Srinagar city is an indicator to the deterioration of the situation and the extent of radicalization,” added Madhav’s statement.
The BJP leader also made it clear that the armed forces, which are under the Central government, had done a “fabulous job” while the state government had showed “severe shortcomings” in maintaining law and order which is primarily its responsibility.
Holding Mehbooba Mufti responsible for the collapse in the state, the BJP also pointed out that it ended its partnership with the PDP because “national integration is paramount for the BJP and it cannot compromise on that question”.
It can be expected that the BJP will hit the road in the coming weeks to project its pullout as another example of Modi’s uncompromising position on terror and national security and his decisive leadership.
On its part, the opposition put up a brave face, saying they will counter the saffron party’s claims in equal measure. Their effort will be to hold the BJP equally responsible for the deteriorating situation in Jammu and Kashmir on the ground that it was sharing power with the PDP and also highlight its inconsistent policy on Jammu and Kashmir.
Congress president Rahul Gandhi tweeted his reaction:
Coming down heavily on the BJP, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) said the BJP’s decision to pull out of the government would push the state deeper into instability.
“The BJP, which was an equal partner in all the decisions of the state government during these three years, can not absolve itself of blame by pulling out of the government,” the party said. It further maintained that the BJP’s decision to end its partnership with the PDP was a manifestation of the party’s faulty policy on Jammu and Kashmir.