Will A PDP Alliance With BJP Save Or Endanger Kashmir, Ask Citizens

31 December 2014
Firstpost
Sameer Yasir

Srinagar: With negotiations between the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) over an alliance in Jammu and Kashmir hitting an impasse on Tuesday, the mood in Kashmir Valley is mixed. Common people on the streets, traveling in public transport, in roadside tea shops, restaurants, plush cafes or salons, have just one question to ask: Who will form the next government in J&K, and when? A few meters from the Clock Tower in Lal Chowk where India's first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru addressed his famous rally, Gayaz Ahmad Thakur, 57, sells steaming cups of tea on a harsh winter morning. A group of people have surrounded a bonfire lit up in front of Gayaz's makeshift shop, discussing politics. Their conversation veers around the prospects of a PDP-BJP alliance in the state. 'I don't think an alliance between BJP and PDP is possible,' Nasir Ahmad Bhat, a resident of Srinagar city says when told by another person that PDP was about to form the next government in the state with the BJP. 'But what really matters is that there should be prosperity, it doesn't matter who makes alliances with whom'. The PDP leadership, which emerged as the single largest party in the state with 28 seats, is divided over allying with the BJP. The party, which is based in Kashmir Valley, urged people during its election campaign in many places to vote en masse so as to keep the rightwing party out of power. However, a newly elected PDP member of the state legislature told Firstpost that a collaboration would make sense, given that the state government was in need of urgent funds for the rehabilitation of flood-hit people and because there was a massive need to rebuild the lost infrastructure. 'We are not against BJP's ideology but they should respect the concerns in Kashmir,' he said. His argument is supported by BBC journalist Riyaz Masroor, who has covered Kashmir for many national and international media organisations. He believes the PDP-BJP alliance will ensure a smooth flow of funds to the cash-starved state and may also act as a buffer between an aggressive ideological force and the communally sensitivity state of Jammu and Kashmir. 'But it depends on how effectively the PDP is able to transform BJP's controversial vision about Kashmir and also how much elbowroom BJP offers the PDP in the state. However, both the scenarios appear far-fetched, hence the deadlock. Even if PDP, which rides on the emotive slogan of 'peace with dignity' chooses to ally with BJP, it will need all the luck to sell the decision to Kashmiris who have long been fed on the political diet of exclusive regionalism,' he says. The negotiations between the two parties hit an impasse on Tuesday with the state BJP unit head, Jugal Kishore Sharma, saying that the PDP was adopting a 'rigid stance' over the issue of Article 370 and abrogation of AFSPA. Shakeel A Qalander, social activist and president of business chamber in Kashmir says the PDP is living in a world of denial if the party leadership believes that funds would flow to state in case of an alliance with BJP. 'You have a recent example when PM Modi said he had released Rs 1000 crore immediately after the floods, but months later, it turned out that for two months, the money was nowhere. Then the Centre demonized a democratically elected government by saying the money would be send to the accounts of people directly,' he told Firstpost. The divide over the PDP's alliance with BJP exists almost in every strata of society in the Valley. People debate the BJP's agenda on Kashmir as much as the cost the PDP will have to pay in Kashmir for 'betraying' its voters and shaking hands with a 'communal party'. Former head of the Department of Political Science at the University of Kashmir, Prof Noor Mohammad Baba, says there will be immediate implications if PDP and BJP forge an alliance. 'People of Kashmir have consciously voted to keep BJP out of power in state. They won't take a PDP-BJP alliance positively. Having said that, much would depend on what kind of Common Minimum Program the two parties will come up with. PDP's options are open. They can still form an alliance with Congress or National Conference and come to power. Such a combination will help the regional parties in bargaining with BJP which is in a relatively weaker position and wants to come to power,' he said. The PDP chief, Mehbooba Mufti is meeting Governor NN Vohra on Wednesday at Raj Bhavan in Jammu where the issue of government formation will be discussed. 'While our legislators have given a nod to the PDP-BJP alliance, they have put a rider that there shall be no concessions to the coalition partner as far as the political agenda of the party and aspirations of people are concerned, which are directly linked with the situation in Kashmir,' said a PDP insider. The BJP has more than doubled its numbers from 11 seats in 2008 to 25 in this year's assembly elections. Although it emerged as the second largest party in the state behind PDP, the saffron party may still have to sit on the opposition benches if the deal with PDP doesn't go through.