March 2016 News
Is PDP's Alliance With BJP Nearing Its End?1 March 2016
Jammu: With the annual budget from Finance Minister Arun Jaitley ignoring any special package for Jammu and Kashmir, it seems the PDP may divorce the BJP after all. Given the general disappointment in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) camp, the party appears to have come to the end of the road with regard to its alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). 'We were expecting at least two major announcements in the union budget to set the ball rolling for government formation (in Jammu and Kashmir) after the nearly two-month-long stalemate,' a former PDP minister who did not want to be named told IANS. 'We expected a financial package to Jammu and Kashmir for buying back two power projects from the NHPC. We also expected announcement of two smart cities for the state. 'These were not hypothetical expectations. We had been given to believe this was happening,' added the PDP source. Two PDP emissaries had been camping in New Delhi for 10 days. Despite no public announcement on parleys between the emissaries and the BJP pointsman on Kashmir, general secretary Ram Madhav, it is common knowledge in the state that they were engaged in government formation negotiations. PDP leader Mehbooba Mufti told a party rally in Anantnag assembly constituency in south Kashmir on February 28 that the central government needed to carry forward the India-Pakistan peace vision of her father, the late Mufti Muhammad Sayeed, whose death as chief minister has sparked political uncertainty in Jammu and Kashmir. She said this was necessary in order to pave the way for her to don the chief minister's mantle. In the same speech, she spoke of respecting the 'overwhelming mandate' given by the Jammu region in favour of the BJP, praised the freedom of expression in India in comparison to Pakistan, and spoke well of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's development agenda. This was seen as Mehbooba Mufti's way of dangling the olive branch vis-a-vis the BJP and pressing for political concessions. She, however, said that her taking charge as chief minister should come with a firm promise of peace and progress, and she was not interested in mere flags, cavalcades and sirens. But despite the passage of nearly two months, the PDP has not succeeded in getting any assurance from the central government over either a financial package for Jammu and Kashmir. A senior BJP leader in Jammu said: 'It is all there in the agenda of alliance and both of us (PDP and BJP) should be content with that. The union budget is a broad-based economic exercise. It can't be expected to focus on state specific issues.' The BJP leader stopped short of confirming whether or not the alliance with the PDP could end on this note. There are reports that some senior leaders and former ministers are mounting pressure on Mehbooba Mufti to take power because that would give the alliance five years to deliver on promises made to the people. Mehbooba Mufti alluded to this 'internal pressure' when she told party workers on February 28 that she would not form a government for party workers and ministers but for the people of the state. Any imminent concession, either political or financial, as a precondition to let Mehbooba Mufti take up the chief ministership is now unlikely from the central government. So, will the PDP and BJP part ways? Or will they somehow make up and shake hands?