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Why has Mehbooba Mufti had a Change of Heart?

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Written by Vinayak Jain

The BJP-PDP alliance has been a topic of heated debates with not only the opposition targeting both the parties, but even BJP supporters voicing their opinion against this ‘unholy’ alliance. The major players in the recent politics of Jammu & Kashmir have been Mufti Mohammed Sayeed and PM Narendra Modi. But one person who remained largely in the backdrop until the death of Mufti Mohammed was Mehbooba Mufti. That is when she truly came into the limelight.

It’s felt that the decision to tie-up with BJP was Mufti Mohammed’s decision as he was the tallest leader in the party and the next CM of the state if the alliance went ahead. And that is what happened. But irrespective of everything that transpired after the election in the state – with BJP getting majority in the Hindu-dominated regions, PDP in the Muslim, and both coming together to form the government – Mehbooba Mufti wasn’t pleased with the tie-up. It’s tough to say what was that she opposed but she has made it amply clear even after Mufti Mohammed’ death that she didn’t support the alliance.

Mufti Sayeed seemed to be a man who wanted development for the people of the state. That was the primary reason why he went ahead with BJP to form the government even when both parties have clashing ideologies. Also what must have encouraged him was the fact that the political situation in J&K had arrived at a virtual stalemate after the elections – PDP dominated the valley, BJP surged in Jammu, and it was clear that this was how it would remain even if no government was formed and a re-election took place. Clearly BJP wouldn’t get seats in the valley but would regain control in Jammu, while PDP wouldn’t do any better in Jammu but would risk losing seats to NC in the valley if a re-election took place. Thus, the only way Mufti Sayeed could have ensured PDP coming to power was through an alliance with BJP.

As CM when Mufti Sayeed was asked about his views on PM Modi he said that Modi is not communal. That when it comes to Kashmir Modi doesn’t just rely on IB reports but takes input from the RSS which is commendable. On the Dadri incident he went on to reiterate that Modi is not communal and that he really means it when he says ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas’. He was confident that Modi will marginalize the loose cannons in BJP. Such was the view of Mufti Mohammed, the leader of a party who’s ideology is opposite to that of the BJP.

Now that I have given a bit of background, I believe that the recent statements and actions of Mehbooba Mufti have definitely resulted in a change of heart and have come about due to three reasons –
1) Mufti Mohammed’s death
2) Political situation
3) A strong central government
.

“The alliance with BJP is unpopular. I won’t mind walking alone if I feel the continuance of alliance with the BJP can’t achieve the political and developmental commitments outlined in the agenda of alliance. Going with the BJP is like burning your fingers.” These were her words not a long ago. Seems like someone who holds a long grudge against the BJP and won’t ever change her stance, doesn’t it? Those who watched PM Modi’s rally in Srinagar in November must remember a small incident. When PM Modi came onto the stage and Mehbooba Mufti (still not the CM) began speaking, the people started chanting ‘Modi, Modi’. She retorted by saying, “Khamosh! Bas bohot ho gaya!”

Now I may be looking too much into this, but those who heard her speak will testify that she was irritated at the chants of ‘Modi, Modi’.

Ever since the PDP-BJP alliance Mufti Sayeed had strongly backed PM Modi and his desire to bring development to the state even though Mehbooba seemed against the alliance. Her father’s death changed her. Mufti Sayeed’s vision was to bring development to J&K and the best person to collaborate with to achieve the same was PM Modi. This is something Mehbooba realized after her father’s death. She may still not like the BJP, but now she feels emotionally compelled to fulfill his father’s vision of raising the standard of living in J&K and there is no one better to do this with than PM Modi.

After the death of Mufti Sayeed, the state went on without a government for two months because Mehbooba Mufti wasn’t sure she wanted an alliance with the BJP. During this period, there was opposition within the PDP regarding the amount of time she was taking to accept the Chief Ministerial post, and how it was creating a negative perception of the party amidst the people. There was news that a few PDP leaders were looking to resign from the party and that this group of leaders were in talks with the BJP, while the rest of the party could nominate someone else as their leader instead of Mehbooba. When these news became ripe, Mehbooba had a sudden meeting with PM Modi in Delhi and after that decided that she would become the CM and continue PDP’s alliance with the BJP. The reason she gave for the sudden change in her decision was that their 35-minute meeting had reduced the trust deficit between the two parties and the PDP could trust the BJP on PM Modi’s word. Although a few of her leaders criticized her afterwards that if all that was needed to form government was a 35-minute meeting, then why did she wait for 2 months?

The third reason that I’ve cited is a strong central government. Mehbooba Mufti knows that the people of her state have voted in number for her party and it’s her duty to fulfill the needs of the people. Even though she has differences with the BJP, she went on with the alliance as she saw this to be a golden opportunity to bring growth to her state seeing the keen interest that PM Modi has taken in J&K. With strong support from the center, if Mehbooba is able to change the state, then that would mean her establishing her stature in the state. And with NC having a scam-riddled history, her good work could mean her cementing her party’s dominance as the top party in the state.

In the past few days, Mehbooba Mufti has given statements that have created uproar as well as pleased certain people for the honesty and courage she displayed. She has praised India as being a ‘great democracy’ and taken extremists head-on. She said that these extremists who kill in the name of Islam are a disgrace to the religion and are defaming the state of J&K. She said that she was ‘ashamed to call herself a Muslim’ after the Pampore attack, a statement then sent NC into a fit of anger. Unlike almost every politician in the country who claim to be a ‘messiahs’ of the Muslims, Mehbooba Mufti very rightly reflected in her speech that terrorism has to do with Islam, and that these terrorists need to be publicly condemned and shown that they do not reflect the teachings of Islam. Her honesty is admirable. If all Muslim clerics and leaders start publicly denouncing these terrorists, then the least that could happen is that the Muslim youth would be less attracted to their violent ideology.

This year’s occasion of the Kheer Bhawani Mela again saw great enthusiasm from Kashmiri Pandits as they thronged the Kheer Bhawani Temple in Ganderbal district. But the celebration was marred by an unfortunate incident when Pandits travelling in a bus were caught in a clash between protesters and the police, and two pilgrims sustained injuries. To pacify the Pandits and make them feel ‘at home’, Mehbooba Mufti went to the temple and prayed with the Pandits.

She even met the two pilgrims who got injured. Her recent statements have been in the news as she has spoken about the rehabilitation of the Pandits. She has said that Kashmir is incomplete without Pandits and they will be rehabilitated. But her government will first set them up in transit accommodations with other Muslim migrants after which they can shift to anywhere they want. She has repeatedly guaranteed the safety of the Pandits. Now the method of her rehabilitation might be questioned, but her intentions can’t, and a strong reason behind this is that PM Modi had promised the rehabilitation of Pandits before the Lok Sabha election. And the last thing I would do is doubt PM Modi. If he has said it then he will find a way to safely restore the pride of Pandits.

I believe that Mehbooba Mufti’s recent statements in support of Pandits is due to rising conformity between her and the Modi government to address the issue with swiftness. And rehabilitation of Pandits is actually a win-win situation for both Mufti and PM Modi as not only will this undo to some extent the horrific exodus of the Pandits but it will also help Mufti gain support in the Hindu community, and fulfill PM Modi’s promise.

Many people questioned PM Modi on the PDP-BJP alliance. To these people I ask – if BJP doesn’t come to power in J&K, then how will Pandits be rehabilitated? Do you think there’s any chance a NC or only-PDP government will take steps to recall Pandits? I strongly believe that PM Modi thinks every one of his decisions through, and this alliance was done with two motives – 1) to rehabilitate Pandits and, 2) to let Pakistan know that he himself has direct involvement and interest in the state and that Pakistan should simply drop the idea of occupying Kashmir. These recent statements by Mehbooba Mufti are very positive. She has spoken for development, in favour of democracy, and supported Pandit rehabilitation, and I’m sure this PDP-BJP alliance will do great for the state and the Pandits in particular.

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