PM Under Pressure to Withdraw Support to PDP, North-South Coalition Poles Apart
Pulling apart within days of the hug
NEW DELHI: The North and South Pole are clearly finding it difficult to get alone in Jammu and Kashmir, with the reverberations being felt in Delhi.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been effectively cornered in Parliament by the opposition parties demanding an explanation now about Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s decision to release hardliner Masarat Alam from jail. An agitated Opposition compelled the PM to intervene, although his aggressive speech about nationalism took refuge in a basic “I do not know” approach. He said he had not been informed by the state government of its decision to release Alam from jail.
Clearly unwilling to take a stand at this juncture the PM wagged his finger at the opposition as with decibels rising he urged the MP’s not to tell him and his party the meaning of patriotism. However, he said that he had asked the state government for the details and will get back to the House with the same. This led the opposition members to point out that all that PM Modi had said was he did not know what was going on in Jammu and Kashmir despite being in the government. “Why don’t you withdraw support,” they asked.
The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh is also running out of patience with the release of Alam being seen as one in a series of controversial statements and actions by the Mufti government. Just last week Parliament was up in arms over Mufti’s remarks on Pakistan and the Hurriyat. The RSS mouthpiece Organiser has jumped into the debate with an article asking the BJP-PDP coalition government’s chief minister if he is an Indian or not.
The article "Sparking Controversy" is written by former CBI director Joginder Singh saying, "the coalition partner that is BJP must make it clear to the PDP leader to be clear if he is an Indian or he is not whether he is India s loyalist or not. He cannot adopt double standards, of 'running with the hound and running with the hare.” Sources said that this was the RSS way of letting it be known that it was not supporting the BJP “adventure” in Jammu and Kashmir.
PM Modi is already coming under pressure to review ties with the government, particularly as Mufti is now determined to consolidate his constituency in the Valley through hard decisions. He has been asked by the BJP to follow the Agenda of Alliance that both parties had finalised, but clearly pressure from the home ground and the criticism for entering into a coalition with the BJP has worked on the PDP and Mufti per se. PDP legislators recently signed a statement that the remains of Afzal Guru be brought back to Srinagar, raising another storm within the coalition and in Delhi.
The Prime Minister sought to emphasise that there was no question of him keeping quiet, as was being alleged by the Opposition. And that his government and party would take action as and when required. However, his remarks fell flat against the Opposition query as to why the BJP was continuing to support the PDP despite all these controversies, and why it was not withdrawing support.
The stage thus is getting set for the collapse of the coalition. The BJP in Jammu is still being held by the reins by party president Amit Shah but these are now fraying, more so after the RSS stand. So far the party has not moved to agitate for its longstanding demand of the abrogation of Article 370, and this is keeping the PDP from pulling away. However, as the sources said, this cannot be for long as Mufti’s actions fly in the face of the BJP’s campaign in Jammu because of which it won 25 Assembly seats. The reaction has been adverse in Jammu, and the pressure from Parliament is not allowing the BJP the space and time it would have liked.
Mufti, however, seems to show no signs as yet of pulling back with the remarks on Pakistan followed by the legislators statement on Afzal Guru followed now by the release of Masarat Alam, all red rags for the BJP bull.
The Citizen has been writing about the difficulties and challenges facing this coalition made up of two parties that campaigned at two extreme ends. And that it would have had a better chance if the BJP and PDP had been more honest with their electorate, and come together on this CMP in a pre-poll pact. It is a known fact that the two parties had agreed to come together for the Assembly elections in the state, but decided to do this after the polls so as to be free to campaign according to their respective positions on controversial issues such as self rule, AFSPA and Article 370.
Parliament was in uproar since the morning, with opposition members shouting clearly working to a strategy to make the BJP accountable for its government in Jammu and Kashmir. The Congress was particularly vociferous on this issue with its members shouting, “"aatankwadi ko chhodnewalon, sharam karo, sharam karo (shame on people releasing terrorist)." Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh said initially that the clarifications sent in by the state government were not convincing, and more details had been asked for. However, the members insisted on a response from PM Modi that came finally, although as Congress leader in the Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge said, it amounted to an admission that the Prime Minister did not have any idea of what was going on in Jammu and Kashmir.
Opposition member after member, targeting the BJP, criticised the government for compromising on national security. Congress MP Anand Sharma said that the state government was "encouraging separatists and anti-national activities. ... We cannot accept this... This country is not ready to accept this." Trinamool Congress MP Derek O'Brien accused the Centre of compromising on national security. Bahujan Samaj party leader Mayawati said, “the BJP should not "compromise national interest for the lust of power".