Thursday, 05 May 2016 12:14

Tough task ahead for Mehbooba

Tough task ahead for Mehbooba


Mehbooba Mufti of the People's Democratic Party has finally become the first woman Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir. This follows three months of intense suspense over government formation, following her father Mufti Mohammad Sayeed's death while serving as CM in a coalition government with the Bharatiya Janata Party. By the time Mufti Sayeed died on 7 Januray, the PDP had lost considerable support in the valley for its decision to join hands with the BJP, which has no base in Kashmir, but which enjoys clout in Jammu.


It is said Mehbooba had been against this coalition from the beginning, but her father opted for the BJP over a grand alliance of the PDP, its arch rival National Conference and the Congress. When polls were held in December 2014, nobody was able to form a government due to fractured mandate. In a house of 70 MLAs, PDP bagged 28, followed by BJP's 25, NC's 15 and Congress's 12. Mufti Sayeed was wary of joining hands with the NC and Congress, as that would enable the BJP to become the sole opposition party, cementing more ground in a communally sensitive state. Joining hands with the BJP, too, was a tough call, but after prolonged negotiations the two parties agreed on a common minimum programme aimed at fast-track development of the state with speedy grants from New Delhi, where BJP was in power.


But the plans did not work out quite well. Mufti Sayeed was unable to secure a major funds for J&K till as late as November 2015, and even the flood relief aid remained elusive despite being sanctioned in pen and paper. Add to that, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, which provides the philosophical anchor to the BJP, accelerated its campaign in Hindu dominated Jammu. On one occasion, it also came out with a much condemned arms march, in which the RSS cadre were seen strolling Jammu's streets with guns and rods. 


The BJP also spelled out its no-beef agenda across the country, leading to the horrible mob lynching of a Muslim man in Dadri in Uttar Pradesh. This caused widespread apprehension among the minorities and the people in Muslim majority Kashmir valley were infuriated with PDP for having allied with the right wing party.


The resentment was at its height when Mufti Sayeed died, and this prompted Mehbooba to not fill in her father's shoes. For three long months, the state remained under president's rule while Mehbooba bargained hard with the BJP for confidence building measures. However, she was not able to extract any major deals from the BJP and yet, fearing that a mid-term poll would benefit rival NC, she decided to form the government, only to become the object of derision in Kashmir.


Mehbooba faces monumental challenges as the state's first woman CM. In the first place, she will have to ensure that RSS ceases its covert activities in Jammu, which has been unnerving the Muslims in Kashmir. Second, she will have to ensure that the central aids promised to the state are not only released in full but also utilised to bring immediate economic boost. She will also have to address the problem of unemployment that is the major reason of discontent in the youth. Though a revocation of Armed Forces Special Powers Act is unlikely, she will have to reduce the army's presence in peaceful civilian areas. Else, this might prove to be the beginning of the end of PDP's clout in Kashmir, which is already judging Mehbooba's decision to align with the BJP rather harshly. 


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