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Congress, NC & PDP outmanoeuvre BJP

By Rahiba R. Parveen

The Congress, the National Conference (NC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have checkmated the BJP in the power chessboard in Jammu & Kashmir by forcing the dissolution of the state assembly and paving the way for elections.

On Wednesday, Governor Satya Pal Malik dissolved the state assembly after rejecting competing claims by the Congress-PDP-NC combine and the Sajad Lone-led Jammu and Kashmir People’s Conference to form the government

The state has been under Governor’s Rule since June last year, when the BJP withdrew support to the PDP-led government, giving the saffron party an indirect hold over power in the state.

The Governor’s Rule also gave the BJP time and opportunity to engineer defections in other parties, especially targeting the PDP whose legislators looked vulnerable to poaching.

The BJP had adopted a two-pronged strategy in the state: To try to expand its base in the Valley by claiming credit for the development works undertaken during Governor’s Rule and to try to form the government by breaking other parties.

The Congress, the NC and the PDP outmanoeuvred the BJP by staking claim to form the government — which would have been a shaky one right from the word go due to internal contradictions — thereby forcing the Governor’s hand.

“For the first time, I am proud of Kashmiri politicians. What no one in the entire country could do, Kashmiris did. They got together and showed the BJP the door,” said a Kashmir watcher who did not wish to be named.

Political analysts said the NC and PDP were conscious of the BJP’s designs after the new governor was appointed.

“They came together to break that design. It has paid off in a way. People in the Valley have taken this positively,” Noor Ahmed Baba, a senior political analyst from Kashmir, told ThePrint.

The changed political scenario, Baba said, may bring some solace for the PDP, in that its legislators may now be reluctant to jump ship at the BJP’s behest. At least five dissenters had publicly criticised Mufti after the BJP pulled the plug on the alliance.

But that may be the only silver lining for the PDP.

After aligning with the BJP, former chief minister and PDP chief Mufti had lost support to such an extent, that her own constituency of South Kashmir slipped out of her hand. There has been deep resentment in the Valley against the PDP’s decision to ally with the BJP, which has changed the ground situation completely.

“People were unhappy with the PDP for bringing the BJP into the state. The PDP would have gained something if Mehbooba was able to form a government under the proposed grand alliance,” Baba said. “Her credibility stands lost today.”

Omar Abdullah’s NC, which was reduced to 15 seats in the 2014 assembly elections, after serving a full six-year term, appears to have benefitted the most from the latest development. The party had already been on the upswing after committing to defend Article 35A, which deals with permanent residency rights.

There had been anxiety in the state since the Supreme Court postponed the hearing of Article 35A. The NC was the first to appoint a legal team to defend it in the apex court.

Its offer of outside support to the proposed grand alliance, with Abdullah saying that the party’s only concern was to “save the state” from fringe elements and the BJP, may project it in a better light than its rivals.

“The NC stands to gain from whatever the PDP has lost. The PDP will find it more difficult to justify its alliance with the BJP but the NC is better off,” said Baba.

Whether it accepts or not, this is a major humiliation for the BJP and its supporters in the Valley who pushed the dream of an alternative in the state.

With some dissenting voices having joined Lone from the PDP, including former NC spokesman Junaid Azim Mattu, who became Mayor of Srinagar recently, the tables have turned after Wednesday’s surprise development.

“For the BJP, the present calculations went wrong. They had nothing to sell. It is also difficult for them to consolidate much in Jammu,” Baba said.

The BJP had won 25 assembly seats in the Jammu region in 2014 as it decimated the Congress with the Modi wave. This time, analysts say, if the Congress and NC stitch a pre-poll alliance in Jammu, the BJP will lose out on a number of seats.

BJP’s main constituency in the state remains Jammu as it had no seats in the Valley. Its confidante, Sajad Lone, also has only two seats in his kitty.