January 2016 News

BJP Ready To Wait, But Will Make No New Promises To PDP

22 January 2016
Amita Shah and Iftikhar Gilani

New Delhi: As Jammu and Kashmir still waits for its new government to take shape, a fortnight after chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed passed away, the BJP is in no mood to give any new 'assurances' to the PDP on contentious issues, a top source said. At the same time, the BJP was unlikely to create 'undue pressure' at this juncture and was prepared to give PDP time to get ready for government formation, the source said. As far as the BJP is concerned, it favoured retaining its terms of engagement with the PDP that existed when Mufti was chief minister, when his daughter Mehbooba Mufti steps into his shoes. The takeover is apparently not going to be as smooth as was expected. While sources said that there have been no formal talks between the allies, there were indications that the PDP wanted certain assurances from the BJP. These included time-bound review of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and its revocation, at least from two places. The PDP has maintained that central laws in the state did not serve their purpose. The BJP had agreed to set up a review committee, but beyond that the party is unlikely to make any new promises, sources said. The PDP is understood to be proposing that the lease for land given to security forces in the state should not be renewed, another issue on which the PDP and BJP do not see eye to eye. Return of power projects run by the National Hydro Power Corporation (NHPC), an assurance given by a former Congress government, is also on the PDP's radar. The BJP, according to sources, sees no reason why it should give in to any of the demands. It is of the view that the PDP was trying to sort out its own dilemma and fears of losing popularity in its own constituency, going by the low attendance at Mufti's funeral. Besides, while the National Conference had evolved through a movement and had support across sections, the PDP was not a grassroot party and did not have a mass base. There was apparent worry in the PDP that its alliance with the BJP was taking a political toll on it. For the PDP, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the BJP's ideological mentor, was the villain. The PDP is concerned about the recent activities of the RSS, which has been active in the state since the 1940s, in Pir Panjal and Chenab valley. Insiders in the PDP said, even when Mufti was alive, Mehbooba was restive at the filing of petitions by the BJP leaders and RSS front organisations either against state flag, Article 33a or on Article 370, thereby limiting space for governance. This bitterness was at play when finance minister Arun Jaitely drove to see Mufti at the AIIMS. She reportedly talked bluntly to Jaitley about the treatment meted out to her, even though her father had put all his political career at stake by aligning with the BJP. After this meeting, Jaitely, when back in his office signed the Rs 1200 crore flood relief file on January 4, that was pending a decision for a long time. Home Minister Rajnath Singh who flew in with Mufti's coffin repeatedly told Mehbooba that she was like his daughter. Later when BJP general secretary Ram Madhav met her in Srinagar for around an hour, she is reported to have opened a pandora's box of complaints. She was bitter over the Prime Minister not finding time to even ask the welfare of her father in AIIMS, barely a five minute drive from his 7 Race Course Residence. Rajnath Singh is reported to have rung up Madhav four times during the meeting to say he should not offend Mehbooba in any way. Union minister Nitin Gadkari told her that Delhi will do everything to realize Mufti's Kashmir dreams. Delhi flew Union Finance Secretary as well to meet Mehbooba and take note of the pending issues. PDP spokesperson and former education minister Naeem Akhtar said the party was reviewing gains and losses and the implementation of the Agenda of Alliance in last nine months before moving ahead. PDP is peeved over being ditched, at the last moment, on not making return of two power projects part of the so-called Rs 80,000 crore package. Delhi, they say, stayed highly conservative in helping Kashmir's flood-decimated economy. As Omar Abdullah attacked the new posturing, a top PDP leader said the nine months of Mufti led government were packed with fundamental reforms that will start showing now. When Mehbooba had an intercation with her party for five hours on January 17, she said she was committed to what her father had decided - on alliance with BJP, because it is aimed at changing the course of history in the subcontinant. She insisted that the Agenda of Alliance was inked after a hard negotiation and she would never try to bargain 'even if she is consumed' (politically). Her only plea was that given the vision of her father and PDP founder, she would take her time to see if she could deliver after she succeeds her father as the next chief minister of the state. This was in response to her party leaders suggesting that she leads them. Mufti son Tassaduq Hussain Sayeed, the 45-year-old cinematographer has also created a buzz in Kashmir and is likely to join politics. In an informal interaction with former PDP ministers and senior leaders at Mufti's Gupkar residence he shared his views on conservation of environment, tourism and development of the summer capital. 'If we won't focus on the development of the State, who will,' the sources quoted Tasadduq as saying during the four-hour meeting. Tassaduq, a cinematographer by profession, who earned laurels for his camera work for Bollywood movie Omakara, termed Srinagar as the heart of Kashmir valley and talked about different places of historic and heritage values that are lying in bad condition. This is for the first time that Tasadduq has spoken after his father's death, amidst reports that he may venture into politics on Mehbooba's insistence. Last week, he attended the PDP's Core Group meeting that was chaired by his elder sister who is the PDP President. During the meet, he was also seen engaging in a long discussion with former Finance Minister, Haseeb Ahmad Drabu. Tassaduq, who won the Zee Cine and Star Screen awards for Best Cinematographer in 2006 for Omkara, studied cinematography in the United States.