A threatening mix of political and military realities forced the BJP to pull out of the alliance with the PDP in Jammu and Kashmir on Tuesday after intervention from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).
The RSS convinced the BJP central leadership that the party faced discontent in the Jammu and Ladakh regions of the state, party sources told Asia Times. The BJP had won 25 seats in the last assembly state elections, with all their seats coming from Jammu, while the two parliamentary seats from the region also went to the party. In Ladakh, the sole Member of Parliament from the area is also from the BJP.
However voters in Jammu grew disenchanted with the BJP when it entered into an alliance with the PDP, a Kashmir-based party that had earlier advocated “self-rule” for the state. Senior BJP central leaders who visited Jammu ahead of the state assembly polls in 2014 had pledged to end the perceived discrimination against Jammu, generate jobs for the youth sector, and abrogate Article 370 of the Indian Constitution, which gives the state special status. Critics argue that none of these promises were fulfilled.
Salvaging the BJP’s image
The RSS attempted to salvage the BJP’s image in Jammu by appointing Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) Ravinder Raina, considered a staunch RSS man, as the state BJP president. Raina shot into the limelight in 2015 when he slapped independent MLA Engineer Abdul Rasheed in the state assembly for hosting a ‘beef party’ at the MLA hostel in Srinagar. His appointment was seen by many as the RSS taking direct organizational control of the state BJP unit.
But the recent rape and murder of a Muslim Gujjar child in Kathua district of Jammu weakened BJP voter support. While many social and political organisations of Jammu demanded a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) inquiry into the incident, the Mehbooba Mufti-led state government ordered the Crime Branch to conduct a probe which indicted some locals.
When two BJP ministers, Choudhary Lal Singh and Chander Prakash Ganga, participated in a rally organized by the RSS-backed Hindu Ekta Manch to demand a federal Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) inquiry, they were dropped from the government, leading to further alienation of the people of Jammu from the BJP.
The BJP is also perceived to have failed on the issue of deportation of Rohingyas who had entered Jammu illegally. The matter had become grave after the terror attack on Sunjuwan army camp in Jammu in February this year. After the attack, senior BJP leader and then Speaker of the legislative assembly, Kavinder Gupta, said that the attack had taken place due to the presence of Rohingyas.
At a press conference held in March this year, the RSS in Jammu had asked for the deportation of Rohingya refugees and termed them as a threat to the integrity of the nation. This was interpreted as a move to address the resentment of Hindus in Jammu against the BJP.
Meanwhile, the BJP is also under pressure in Ladakh where it had promised Union Territory status before the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, but was unable to fulfil the pledge.
Meanwhile, the Ramadan (Ramzan) ceasefire announced by the Modi Government in the Valley failed when hardliners refused to observe it. The murder of journalist Shujaat Bukhari and the abduction and murder of rifleman Aurangzeb of the Indian Army during the holy month of Ramadan further added to the tension.
Opposition parties like the National Conference and the Congress have now started lambasting the PDP-BJP alliance. On Tuesday, senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad called the alliance a ‘Himalayan blunder’ and said that the arrangement not only caused financial distress to the state but also ruined the atmosphere of Jammu and Kashmir.
“This was an unholy alliance and it was expected to break from Day One. They [BJP and PDP] had betrayed the people of the state and supporters of the respective parties. They sought votes on opposing agendas. The BJP had a big mandate at the national level but they lacked policy when it came to Jammu and Kashmir,” said G A Mir, state president of the Congress.
Meanwhile, former chief minister Omar Abdullah said that his party was mourning the “demise of democracy” in the state. “Let Governor’s Rule be imposed but it should not be for very long. The atmosphere should be created for people to decide whom they want to bring in power in the state,” Omar said. He said he had expected the alliance to fall apart later this year but it occurred early due to the deterioration of the situation in the Valley.
Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti said that people had started feeling relieved during the recent Ramadan ceasefire. “It was our effort to provide a peaceful atmosphere to the people of the state. A muscular policy will not work in the case of Kashmir. However, the BJP was not feeling comfortable with our demands like ceasefire which was working well for us but not with them,” she said.
In the case of Jammu and Kashmir, Governor’s Rule can be imposed for a maximum period of six months as per Section 92 of the state’s constitution. The Chief Minister tendered her resignation to Governor N N Vohra earlier on Tuesday.