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GOWHAR GEELANI | 9 JANUARY, 2015

MUFTI’S STROKE OF POLITICAL GENIUS

Mufti Mohammad Sayeed: Man of the Match


SRINAGAR: After 17-day’s stalemate with respect to government formation in restive Jammu & Kashmir, State’s Governor NN Vohra after receiving concurrence from the President of India, Pranab Mukherjee, under section 92(5) of the Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir, imposed Governor’s rule in the region.

In this direction Mr. Vohra issued a proclamation under section 92(1) of the Constitution of Jammu & Kashmir, according to a press release issued by the state’s information department.

Governor’s rule has been imposed in the state for the sixth time since 1977.

After the Peoples Democratic Party, the single-largest party with 28 seats, and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) failed to stitch a coalition together in last 16-17 days the outgoing Chief Minister Omar Abdullah on January 7 conveyed to the Governor that he could no longer continue in office.

As no party came forward to stake claim to form government Omar decided to step down as caretaker chief minister, adding to the anguish of the PDP. It is another matter that Governor Vohra had actually set January 19, 2015 as the deadline for government formation.

While the NC would like to score some brownie points by accusing its political adversary, the PDP, of pushing the state toward political uncertainty and instability by refusing to respond to the offers made by both the NC and Congress, the PDP would be more than happy to go back to the voters with some confidence to claim that unlike the NC it preferred ‘relinquishing’ power than grabbing it in haste.

The PDP could also say that it did not compromise its regional identity and ideology for short-term goal of grabbing political power for six years.

Clearly, Advantage PDP.

That said, the PDP’s chief spokesperson Naeem Akhtar said that the talks in relation to the government formation would continue unabated and as soon as any breakthrough in this direction was made the Governor’s rule would automatically end.

Omar Abdullah had tendered his resignation on December 24, 2014, a day after the J&K assembly election results were declared. Governor Vohra had asked Omar to continue in office until “alternative arrangements were made.”

The last two weeks witnessed a lot of brainstorming and consultations between Governor and the leadership of PDP and BJP, though without any headway or significant breakthrough.

Cobbling up a coalition with the BJP was always going to be a challenge for the PDP. But in this challenge there was also an opportunity for the party to establish itself as a strong regional political entity which could not be taken for a ride by New Delhi.

This is why.

By playing “mind games” with the BJP over government formation in Jammu & Kashmir since December 23, 2014 the PDP has perhaps succeeded in stunning the Hindu nationalist party with a stroke of political genius and also to an extent established its image as a serious regional political force to reckon with.

The party’s Catch-22 situation aside, the PDP’s judicious mix of indecision-dillydallying-brainstorming and calming demeanour has ended up confusing its political adversaries more than the Mufti Muhammad Saeed-led organization itself.

Thus far it appears that the PDP’s battle between arithmetic and ideology has ended in a deadlock.

The decision to form coalition government with the BJP was never going to be a cakewalk for the PDP.

In case the party preferred power over its ideology and regional identity the detractors would have accused it of political opportunism and also of siding with the BJP— a party which derives its main ideological strength from the extremist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).

As pointed out earlier, entering into a partnership with the BJP while compromising its identity and ideology would have been no less than a political suicide for the PDP.

For now the PDP seems to have delayed the situation of “going to the gallows (joining hands with the BJP) and expecting to win a trophy”.

Many political commentators strongly feel that the PDP is unnecessarily ‘cribbing’ about the fractured verdict (only 28 seats in its kitty), as they lay emphasis on the fact that the 15-year old political force has actually been instrumental in the ‘near-decimation’ of the NC — an ‘ideological’ force, ‘symbol’ of Kashmiri identity and Kashmiri nationalism which had earned reputation as a major political force for past seven or eight decades.

Apart from being answerable to its voters on domestic turf the PDP also faced a serious challenge from other two major factors: one, the resistance leadership and the youth active on social media.

Hugely popular octogenarian Syed Ali Shah Geelani, chairman of a faction of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC), had indirectly put pressure on the PDP to stay away from the BJP when he, in a recent seminar organized at his Hyderpora residence, had taken a dig at Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his alleged role in Gujarat pogrom of 2002.

SAS Geelani also described the BJP and RSS as two sides of the same coin.

Maintaining his old strategy, SAS Geelani had openly called for an election boycott this time too.

Apart from Geelani’s subtle opposition to the BJP-PDP partnership, the educated and conscious young Kashmiris active on the social media kept warning the the PDP to stay away from the BJP for “safeguarding Kashmir’s distinct regional identity and Kashmiri nationalism”.

It is far easier for the NC to say that the PDP as the single-largest party has put the state in a condition of uncertainty despite offers of outside support from both the NC and Congress to form a ‘secular’ government in Jammu & Kashmir, the fact is that Omar Abdullah has only ended up presenting himself as immature, opportunist and sadist politician.

The split mandate to a large extent was indicative of the fact that the voters had rejected the NC-Congress coalition (with some reasonable exceptions) for mis-governance, corruption of scandals and gross human rights excesses during its six-year long rule from 2009-14.

In politics, they say, rats marry snakes. Anything is possible. A PDP-BJP coalition might still be a possibility and arithmetical reality but for now the shrewd politician Mufti Saeed has emerged as ‘Man for the Crisis’ as far as the PDP is concerned. Despite being under tremendous pressure for the past fortnight Mufti has maintained incredible calm and forced the BJP, NC and Congress do all the talking!

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