When former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti said recently that her father, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, had joined hands with the BJP as he had good relations with the central government when Atal Bihari Vajpayee was the Prime Minister, it didn’t ruffle any feathers in the state. Late Sayeed and Mehbooba, besides other PDP leaders, frequently speak about “Vajpayeeji” in glowing terms. Farooq Abdullah and his son Omar, both former chief ministers, also speak about the “Vajpayee years” frequently despite the fact that it was the Central government, led by the former PM, which had rejected the autonomy report passed by the National Conference government in 2000.
Remember, not so long ago, Farooq Abdullah even saw Vajpayee in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s eyes. The Vajpayee discourse is dominant in Jammu and Kashmirand even some separatist leaders speak fondly about the former Prime Minister.
But much water has flown down the Chenab ever since the BJP pulled out of the PDP-led government. And Mehbooba has now added another word in her discourse afterthe break – “poison”. In a recent comment, Mehbooba said that having an alliance with the BJP was like having "a cup of poison". But it took a break-up for Mehbooba to realise this. Till the government was in place, they all seemed to have enjoyed the ‘hemlock’ cup.
It is true that Mehbooba Mufti didn’t form the governmentfor nearly three months after the death of her father. She felt her father was not well treated by the Modi government and promises made in the Agenda of Alliance were left unfulfilled. Hence, she delayed her decision to join the government. After she agreed to become the Chief Minister in 2016, she would always praise the BJP andModi and would always say that the Prime Minister has ahuge mandate to resolve the Kashmir issue. Even during the 2016 uprising, Mehbooba defended her government’s use of force against protesters, asking if the protesters hadgone towards police posts and the army camps to fetch milk, That was during the height of protests, when a large number of civilians were killed and maimed in bullets and pellets fired of security forces. The Right-wing columnistsbased in New Delhi had applauded Mehbooba for her comments. They said, she is “our man in Srinagar.” Hence the “cup of poison” comment could be baffling for them.
Mehbooba now says that she suffered in the two-years-and-two-months of alliance with the BJP. Whether she and her legislators suffered is debatable. But more than her, it is the state leaders of the BJP who are in perpetual agony. They are in the real distress. Because most of them had no idea about their party’s decision to pull out of the alliance. Before, the BJP’s points man in J&K Ram Madhav announced the break at a press conference in Delhi, the party had called the state BJPministers and MLAs to Delhi. And they were under the impression that they were called to give a presentation to the central leadership about their performance as ministers and as legislators.
In hindsight, the break-up was like having a glass of poison for the BJP legislators. They are still having it each day as the assembly is kept in suspended animation. What keeps them alive is a hope that the BJP can still form the government with some other allies in Jammu and Kashmir. And there are some rebel PDP MLAs and at least two Peoples Conference MLAs, who are ready to drink a bucket of poison but the BJP central leadership seems not to be in ahurry to fulfil their wish.