Mufti Mohammad Sayeed's PDP Looks For A Vajpayee In Modi

1 January 2015
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Parvaiz Bukhari

Srinagar: Kashmir's mainstream political theatre seems frozen in the post-election winter chill, as its people await a new government. The Peoples Democratic Party patron, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, must be the loneliest, most tense man in the state today. According to his party's spokesman, Sayeed, who is almost certain to be the next chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, is in 'constant consultation with himself' trying to figure out how an alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party can be sold to the state's people as the wisest decision he ever made. Sayeed, often referred to as the most astute of all politicians in the state, is perhaps facing his toughest challenge so far as he juggles multiple dilemmas while choosing his allies for government. The PDP has got 28 seats in the 87-member assembly and the BJP 25. But as Sayeed considers a deal to share power with the PDP's ideological enemy, the BJP, he is already already facing opposition from some of his own newly elected legislators. Pros and cons The BJP, which swept the Hindu-dominated areas of the state, has added to Sayeed's woes by saying that a government without it would be a farce. Given the history of previous state governments' relationships with the Centre, Sayeed is acutely aware of the choking he might face if he chooses to keep the BJP out and go with either his bête noir, the National Conference, or the Congress and independent legislators. Exercising any of the available choices for government formation has jammed the 78-year-old PDP patriarch between a rock and a hard place. Putting together a majority in the new assembly, though, is the least of the challenges that Sayeed is facing. It is the matrix of ideological contradictions thrown up by all the possible combinations that is calling on his experience and straining his deepest desire to leave behind a legacy of at least showing a path to resolving the dispute over the state. If Sayeed finally chooses the BJP, he might sail through the next six years by delivering some 'development' and extending his 'healing touch' policy. But in the process, he could stunt the political future of his daughter, the PDP president Mehbooba Mufti, with the other two major parties in the state, the NC and the Congress on the prowl. The dominant opinion in Kashmir valley, the PDP's core constituency, is opposed to an alliance with the BJP. Sayeed and his strategists are trying hard to convince the party's rank and file that by joining hands with the ruling Hindu nationalist party, they would not just fast-track overall development of the state but also push for an inevitable dialogue with Pakistan over Kashmir. Rising tide of Hindutva But the BJP's silent stance on the rising religious intolerance on display by Hindutva groups across India, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi's hard stance towards Pakistan is making Sayeed develop cold feet. Newspapers and social media in the state are abuzz with unforgiving commentaries about Sayeed's growing inclination towards allying with the BJP. The commentariat is already comparing Sayeed with Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, the state's first major leader and founder of the NC, whose grave has had to be guarded by police since the 1989 armed rebellion against Indian rule of Kashmir. 'Mufti Sayeed's grave would be the second to be guarded by police if he goes with the BJP,' a newspaper article recently quoted a Kashmiri as saying. On the New Year's eve, a Facebook post summarised an overwhelming feeling in Kashmir over Sayeed's possible alliance with the BJP. 'As PDP seems set to wed BJP for next six years, Article 370 will be strengthened and abrogated. AFSPA will stay and go. Kashmir will be 'self-ruled' and further integrated into India. The people will get healing and heating touch. Pakistan will be talked to and hit hard. Separatists will be dealt with heavy hand and softly. War will be peace, and poor old Orwell will be deeply missed. Happy new year 2015!' According to sources in the PDP, Sayeed is also carefully weighing any leverage the separatists might derive from his probable alliance with the BJP. Sayed Ali Geelani, the steadfast and ageing separatist leader who holds a near-complete sway over the deeply held anti-India sentiment in the state, also applied some subtle pressure on the PDP patron by issuing statements calling to keep the BJP out without any reference to any particular political party. Pointing fingers Others are pointing out that Sayeed, a former Congressman himself was responsible in nurturing the growth of the Indian national party in Jammu and Kashmir. They say Sayeed is now preparing the ground for opening Kashmir to the Hindu nationalist organisation, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. But all indications, PDP sources say, are that Sayeed is withstanding and 'smoking away' the pressure and is working on ways to explain an alliance with the BJP to be in the largest interest of the state under the pertaining situation. Mehbooba Sayeed, after meeting Governor N N Vohra on Wednesday, also gave the clearest indication so far that PDP was going to form the next state government in coalition with the BJP. She said her party had the support of 55 legislators in the newly elected assembly. Between her PDP's 28, the BJP's 25 and the separatist-turned-pro-India-politician Sajad Lone's two (including himself), many read Mehbooba's maths as a forgone conclusion. Lone has made no secret of his close proximity with the BJP. Smart maths However, if Mufti Mohammad Sayeed accepts a proposal for a 'grand alliance' with NC's 15 legislators and Congress party's 12, it also makes the number 55. Smart maths it may be, but Mehbooba Sayeed's invocation of Atal Bihari Vajpayee's 'agreement' with her party's agenda of 'peace and welfare' was the PDP's 'hinted pre-condition' to the saffron party that Modi must appear like Vajpayee in Kashmir for the ideological enemies to work together. If in the end Sayeed manages to carve out a Vajpayee from Modi for the moment, what happens in Modi's India in the next few years will determine the PDP patriarch's legacy in Kashmir. But whatever the composition of the next state government, Sayeed this time appears destined to join hands with his ideological enemies, be it the BJP or the NC.