Written by Mir Ehsan , Arun Sharma , Muzamil Jaleel | Srinagar
For the first time in history, the BJP is going to be a part of a ruling coalition with the PDP in Jammu and Kashmir.
While PDP patron Mufti Mohammad Sayeed is going to be Chief Minister for six years, the agenda of alliance between the two parties seems heavily tilted towards the BJP. In fact, apart from a full term as CM for Mufti, the BJP hasn’t given in to the PDP’s demands on any of the contentious issues.
Sources said the new government would be announced soon and Mufti would meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi ahead of the oath-taking ceremony. For the BJP, RSS and other Sangh affiliates, it’s a historic moment, and there is jubilation in the Sangh Parivar camp in Jammu.
“This day has come only because of the sacrifices of our cadre and leaders. Syama Prasad Mookerjee sacrificed his life here in J&K. More than 60 years later, the BJP is going to be in government in Kashmir,” said a party leader. “I won’t be able to give you the exact details of the Common Minimum Programme of our coalition, but trust me, there is not a single thing there that deviates from BJP’s ideological position.”
“It is a historic opportunity for the party,” said senior BJP leader and the party’s likely candidate for deputy chief ministership Nirmal Singh. He said the two parties wanted the people to get their due, but perceptions and approaches were different. “Those differences have been narrowed down. There has been a religious, regional and linguistic divide and that would be be bridged,” he said.
“The understanding on government formation is the beginning of a good era for people of J&K,” said BJP’s state general secretary Ashok Koul. “The BJP is a nationalist party that has been fighting for the welfare of the people of the state since 1947 and now people have given us a chance,” he said.
The entire PDP leadership has assembled in Jammu where meetings took place all day on Saturday, but they weren’t ready to divulge the details of the pact on record. Officially, the PDP has maintained that the talks are still on. “We have achieved significant progress. The talks have entered the next level — we have achieved consensus on most of the areas, but a couple of things remain inconclusive, on which some more effort may be needed. We will have a clear picture in a couple of days,” said PDP chief spokesman Nayeem Akhtar.
Sources said the BJP didn’t agree to say that Article 370 would be inviolable as demanded by the PDP, and instead the issue was dealt with in a carefully drafted ambiguous language, which would provide room for the PDP leadership to interpret it in their favour before their core constituency.
Sources revealed that while there would be no mention of any assurance by the BJP to support safeguarding of Article 370, the agenda of alliance would say that the two parties have agreed to maintain the constitutional status and sentiments of people towards provisions of the Constitution would be respected.
Similarly, the BJP has not agreed to give any commitment on withdrawal of AFSPA within a year as demanded by PDP. Sources said the two parties have agreed to make the withdrawal of AFSPA subservient to the ground situation and subject to improvement in the security situation. “The issue of AFSPA is not going to be addressed in a time frame, it will be addressed in a situational frame,” said a leader privy to the deal. In the meantime, according to sources, the two parties have agreed to replace the army with central police forces and J&K Police in areas that have stayed peaceful for a substantial time period.
On the other contentious issue regarding the grant of state subject rights to the Western Pakistan refugees, sources said the coalition partners have agreed that it is a “humanitarian issue” and needs to be resolved on humanitarian grounds. A PDP leader said it was highly unlikely that the party would agree to change the status of these refugees and give them permanent resident status. “This could only happen once the state legislative assembly passes this amendment with two-third majority. I don’t think we would do that,” said the leader.
The BJP leaders, however, said this issue, which was at the centre of the party’s poll campaign, would be resolved as per their stand only. The Western Pakistan Refugees who have come to J&K in 1947, 1965 and 1971 have been granted Indian citizenship. BJP is demanding that these refugees be granted state subject rights as well. This is a contentious issue because this measure is seen as an effort to alter the demographic make-up of the state by the Muslim majority in the state who oppose it.
Sources said the PDP has, however, managed to get the chief ministership for its leader Mufti Mohammad Sayeed for the entire six-year tenure. “I can tell you that the Finance and Home ministry is also with PDP. Haseeb Drabu who was negotiating the deal with BJP is most likely going to be the Finance Minister,” said a PDP leader. The highlight of the CMP, sources said, is the package for governance.
“There is a clear cut promise to return hydropower projects to the state from Centre. In fact, there will be more to it,” said a senior PDP leader. He said that there would be emphasis on development and a job package too. “The BJP leadership was much more forthcoming on the issues of development. I don’t think we will have any financial problems anymore,” he said. A PDP leader said there would be mention of the dialogue process as well. “I can’t tell you how it will be worded though,” he said.
Sources in the BJP said the agenda for alliance would also mention an equitable distribution of funds and jobs between Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh regions. Sources said the draft of the agenda for alliance was cleared by senior RSS functionaries as well before the BJP leaders conveyed its agreement to PDP leadership.
“Let it be made public. You will see that we have not lost on anything,” said a senior BJP leader who attended Friday’s meeting with senior RSS functionaries and also the party high command at Delhi. The draft agreement also had the approval of senior RSS functionaries who convened a meeting of Sangh and BJP leaders from Jammu Kashmir yesterday to ascertain their views on government formation with PDP.
For nearly two months since the assembly polls gave a hung verdict, both the BJP and PDP have been trying to sort out issues dividing them for formation of their coalition government in the state. The BJP was represented in talks by its national general secretary (organization) Ram Madhav and the PDP by Mufti’s close aide and newly elected MLA, Haseeb Drabu. In fact, senior PDP leader and a strong votary for an alliance with BJP Muzaffar Hussain Beig had opened the parleys with BJP but he was subsequently replaced by Drabu.
The PDP has 28 members, while the BJP has 25, NC 15, Congress 12 and others 7. Though both the Congress and NC had offered support to PDP in government formation, the latter opted for BJP as ignoring it would have meant keeping the Hindu dominated Jammu region out of government.