File photo of Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh and now sacked Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti at a press conference in Srinagar. Photo: AFP
File photo of Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh and now sacked Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti at a press conference in Srinagar. Photo: AFP

Ahead of crucial national elections in India, slated for 2019, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has pulled out of its key alliance with the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in Jammu and Kashmir.

The conflict-ridden state will now be under Governor’s Rule, which means the BJP-led federal government will run the state for the next six months. Governor’s Rule returns to the troubled state after nearly 10 years.

The move came after the Government of India ended the Ramadan ceasefire in Kashmir and Indian security forces suspended their counter-insurgency operations. The ceasefire was called off soon after the assassination of senior journalist Shujaat Bukhari in Srinagar’s Press Enclave.

Ram Madhav, the National General Secretary of the BJP, announced the decision to withdraw support from the state government and argued that his party had tried its best for the past three years. He said it has become “untenable for the BJP to continue in alliance with the PDP in Jammu and Kashmir, hence we are withdrawing.”

Political observers believe the BJP will use the period to consolidate its base in the Hindu and Buddhist-dominated regions of the state. The Jammu region is largely Hindu, while Ladakh is predominantly Buddhist. The state is India’s only Muslim-dominated state, which has a special provision barring those from outside the state from settling there.

The BJP cited rising terrorist incidents, radicalization and the deteriorating law and order situation as prime reasons for the withdrawal. They insisted they were not “losing any ground.” It also added that many of the BJP’s ministers in the state faced difficulties from the PDP in carrying out developmental works.

Madhav said the law and order situation in the state was questionable “if terrorists can walk into Srinagar city and kill a senior journalist like Shujaat Bhukhari under broad daylight.”

“Terrorism, violence and radicalization have risen and fundamental rights of the citizens are under danger in the Valley,” he said.

Training his guns on PDP leader and Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, Madhav said: “The main person responsible for taking care of the state’s issues has not been completely successful in doing that.” Meanwhile, chief minister Mehbooba Mufti and her ministers sent their resignations to the state’s Governor, N N Vohra.

Right after the announcement of the BJP’s withdrawal, Omar Abdullah, the former chief minister of the state, tweeted a single sentence obituary.

Now, the current state government will be dissolved, initiating Governor’s rule in the state under Article 92 of Jammu and Kashmir’s Constitution.

“Keeping in mind the nation’s sovereignty, the larger national interest of India’s security, keeping in mind that Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India, we have decided it’s time we hand over the power in the state to the governor,” Madhav told the media.

However, the PDP pretended to be surprised by the announcement. “This is a surprise for us because we did not have any indication about their decision,” Rafi Ahmad Mir, the PDP spokesperson, told ANI. Incidentally, the BJP says it formed the coalition government with the PDP to ‘respect’ the people’s mandate as the state was on the verge of going under Governor’s Rule in 2015 due to a hung assembly.

The BJP also accused the PDP of not initiating any political process to decrease the radicalization of youth in the Valley. The saffron party said that during the ceasefire, which was the BJP’s “goodwill gesture,” the separatist forces in Kashmir who want the region’s secession from India did not enter into the dialogue.

The rift between the BJP and the PDP first became visible when the rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl from a Muslim nomadic tribe in Kathua district shook the state. A few of the BJP ministers were seen rallying in support of the accused in the case, while the PDP government openly condemned the incident in January this year. The killing of Rising Kashmir’s editor Shujaat Bukhari seems to have hastened the breakdown.

According to the constitution, Governor’s Rule has to be reviewed after six months, after which an attempt can be made to build a coalition government. If that fails then the state will have to have new elections.

With the infiltration of armed militants from Pakistan and rising terror attacks, people in the state are on edge. While the BJP hopes to gain, the PDP will be the biggest loser. It was extremely unpopular when it accepted to set up a coalition government with the BJP.

The three years of its rule has evaporated the little sympathy and support it had. The silence or the inability of the chief minister to condemn human rights violations, such as the use of a human shield by an Indian Army officer in April 2017, saw her popularity plummet.

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