Srinagar/New Delhi: Jammu and Kashmir was pushed into a major political crisis on Tuesday after the BJP suddenly pulled out of the ruling combine with the PDP, bringing down Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti’s 27-month-old government amid surging violence in the state.
The decision, which surprised the Mufti-led Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and came days after the central government decided not to extend the Ramadan ceasefire, made another round of Governor’s Rule imminent in the state where no political group or alliance won enough seats in the December 2014 elections to form a government on its own.
Mehbooba Mufti stepped down as the Chief Minister immediately after BJP announced its decision in a televised news conference. She made it clear that the PDP wasn’t interested in forming an alliance with the National Conference or the Congress for a new government.
BJP General Secretary Ram Madhav, announcing his party’s decision in Delhi, said the state government had failed to curb growing terror and radicalization in the Kashmir Valley, making the continuance of its alliance with the PDP “untenable”.
Madhav said the murder of senior Kashmiri journalist Shujaat Bukhari in Srinagar implied how the situation was in Jammu and Kashmir.
“Three years ago, the BJP formed a government in Jammu and Kashmir with the PDP with some goals. But it has become untenable for the BJP to continue the alliance in the situation that has developed today.
“Terrorism and violence have increased in the valley and radicalization is fast spreading. Fundamental rights of citizens and right to free speech of people have come under threat in the valley as symbolized by the murder of … Bukhari in broad daylight,” Madhav said in a hurriedly called press conference.
Immediately after learning about the Bharatiya Janata Party’s decision, Mehbooba Mufti rushed to the Raj Bhavan and submitted her resignation to Governor N.N. Vohra — who has already had three stints of enjoying Chief Minister’s executive powers in 2008, 2015 and 2016.
The political crisis set the stage of another round of Governor’s Rule in the state which has seen three such administrations since 2008 and seven since 1977.
No regional or national party has 45 seats in the 89-member Jammu and Kashmir Assembly. The PDP emerged as the single largest party with 28 seats, followed by the BJP with 25 in the last elections. The National Conference won 15 and the Congress managed 12.
The BJP and the PDP came together after weeks of negotiations and formed the government on March 1, 2015. The alliance, which brought the ideologically different parties together, was always rocky.
After her father’s death on January 1, 2016, Mehbooba Mufti reluctantly continued the PDP’s alliance with the BJP and formed a new government only on April 4, 2016.
Their ties worsened in April this year after the gang-rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl from the nomadic Muslim community in Kathua district near Jammu.
With Governor Vohra’s tenure, which began at the height of the deadly Amarnath land row on June 25, 2008, set to conclude by the month end, sources in Delhi told IANS that he was likely to get an extension of at least six months to enable a smooth transition of administration in the troubled state.
The President of India, unlike in other states, cannot rule directly the state which has its own constitution. A Governor in the absence of an elected government draws executive powers but has no legislative authority even as he or she can pass ordinances which necessarily have to be passed by an elected Assembly.
The BJP said it has recommended Governor’s Rule in the state “keeping in mind that Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India.
“In order to control the prevailing situation in the state, we have decided that the reins of power in the state be handed over to the governor,” Madhav said.
Mehbooba Mufti after resigning told reporters in Srinagar that the PDP had not allied with the BJP for power. “We will continue to strive for dialogue and reconciliation in Jammu and Kashmir.”
She asserted that the PDP had always maintained that a muscular security policy would not work in the state and reconciliation was key.
Counting her government’s achievements, Mehbooba Mufti said the peace initiative of the unilateral ceasefire during the just ended Ramadan was the PDP’s idea that brought a lot of relief to the people.
Former Chief Minister and National Conference leader Omar Abdullah said the timing of the BJP’s move was surprising even as he had signalled to Mehbooba Mufti to leave the coalition. “I wish she had listened to me and left with dignity instead of having the rug pulled from under her feet.”
Abdullah said fresh Assembly elections should be held at the earliest.
The Congress said it won’t ally with the PDP because Mehbooba Mufti’s coalition with the BJP had “devastated the state, be it economically or socially”.
“The alliance has left Jammu and Kashmir in a state of ruins,” said senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad.
Congress President Rahul Gandhi said the “opportunistic BJP-PDP alliance cost the country strategically” while “damage will continue” under the Governor’s Rule. “Incompetence, arrogance and hatred always fails,” Gandhi said on Twitter.