The end of the uneasy Jammu and Kashmir alliance between the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) marks the beginning of a new chaotic episode unveiling in the state.
Ideological Differences Between BJP And PDP
The move further complicates the stance that the Narendra Modi led centre has had with regards to Kashmir. The BJP and the Rashtrya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) have historically been vehemently opposed to the PDP on several key issues.
At the heart of those are the controversial Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act or AFSPA, and the constitutional provision of Article 370. The BJP has long supported AFSPA, asserting its importance for the national security of the country, while the PDP alleges long term human rights abuses and extrajudicial killings as the horrors of AFSPA which inflict Kashmir.
On Article 370, which gives special provisions to the state of Kashmir, including its own flag and constitution, the BJP has remain committed to its stance of wanting 370 repealed.
The PDP, on the other hand, argues for the need of special provisions for the state given its tragic past and precarious present.
In spite of these differences, the two parties entered a historic post-poll coalition with the PDP after failing to procure a majority in the Kashmir assembly, nevertheless getting the highest seats they’d ever procured in the state.
The Congress was quick to jump at the opportunity to point out how the BJP had broken a pledge made to the people of the state when it entered the Kashmir alliance, which was to govern for the next six years. They accused the BJP of playing vote bank politics in the valley.
Leading up to the 2014 elections, the BJP and the PDP ran on polar opposite political planks, AFSPA and 370 forming the pivot of their clashes. According to the Congress, allying with the PDP was a betrayal of the mandate the BJP secured from its voters, since it equalled reneging on the rhetoric they peddled during election season.
Indeed, if the only reason the BJP chose to ally with the PDP was to provide efficiency in ground-level governance, that is also something they have brought to a screeching halt with a hung assembly.
What This Means For The 2020 State Elections
The opposition in India is uniting, there is no question about that. Leading up to the 2019 general election, this pan India “mahagathbandhan” has seen political rivalries be forgotten in order to stand up to the looming electoral threat of the BJP.
We saw this with the Congress’ post-poll alliance with JD(S) in Karnataka. We saw this with Mamata Banerjee’s call for a pre-poll alliance to oppose the BJP. We saw this with the attendance of all the major regional parties at Kumaraswamy’s swearing in as the Karnataka CM.
In Kashmir, the mood is dismal. More deaths, army clashes, and the recent cold-blooded murder of Shujaat Bukhari have driven a new crack in the state’s relations with the centre.
The BJP, in its comments after withdrawing from the Kashmir alliance, pointed a finger at the PDP. They blamed it for the dwindling law and order situation in the state, and not allowing them to address the general lack of development and low standard of living in the valley.
It seems that the BJP intends for this to be the plank upon which they fight the next election in the state. It does make logical sense, because it is in keeping with the agenda of development that the BJP peddled in 2014. Acting as the first movers in the breaking of the Kashmir alliance, they have signalled that they were the ones unhappy with the current coalition and seeking a change.
What remains to be seen, of course, is whether this rhetoric is bought by the people of Kashmir, in light of the long standing animosity which brews between the Army and the people of the state.
It is too early to call the results of the coming elections. The Congress, on the face of it, has ruled out forming a coalition with regional parties in Kashmir. This might come back to haunt them, given their strategy in Karnataka of a regional-national coalition.
Will the Congress make a return in Kashmir? Will the PDP get the benefit of the doubt? Or will the BJP’s most recent move make them the gainers? The upcoming state election of 2020 has these answers.
What Is The BJP Trying To Signal?
In light of the anti-BJP sentiment being taken up by its competitors, this might be an attempt by the party to make a show of strength.
Beyond what it means for Jammu and Kashmir, how the rest of the country perceives the BJP’s exit from the Kashmir alliance is also something the party is bound to care about. After all, a significant chunk of the party’s pan-Indian voter base comes from the Hindu majority. Within the interests of this group, Kashmir is significant due to its strategic importance in the creation of a united Hindu India in the future.
As a message to its core voter base, the ones who helped elect them in 2014, it is as though the BJP intends to say: we won’t soften on Kashmir. AFSPA is here to stay.
Interestingly, backing out of the Kashmir alliance pans out in stark contrast to the Congress’ recent long term alliance with the JD(S) in Karnataka. The BJP has chosen to showcase itself as the political opposite of the Congress— strong enough to hold its own even in the face of united opposition. Whether or not this will be the key to countrywide electoral success is something that only time will tell.
(Aritro Bose is a 20-year-old Economics major at Ashoka University. From writing poetry and fiction, to debating and public speaking, he loves his words. A deep-seated sense of curiosity fuels his multi-disciplinary interests, ranging from international politics to post-modern literature.)
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are the author’s personal views.