Strains showed up today in the week-old People’s Democratic Party (PDP)-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) coalition government over the release of hardline separatist leader Masarat Alam, with the saffron party slamming the “unilateral” decision and warning that such things would not be tolerated.
BJP said the decision was not a part of Common Minimum Programme (CMP) on the basis of which the alliance government is being run in Jammu and Kashmir but PDP differed, insisting that it is in tune with the CMP.
State BJP chief and MP Jugal Kishore Sharma said his party was not even consulted before the decision was taken.
Senior state BJP leaders met here today to discuss the issue, he said, adding his party will convey its “displeasure” to PDP leadership and ask it to follow the “coalition dharma”.
BJP has taken “very seriously” the “unilateral” decision of Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and the party is “deeply hurt”, he said about the release of the hardline separatist leader which has kicked up a major controversy.
He said Sayeed did not take its coalition partner BJP into confidence before taking the decision to release Alam.
“We had no prior information or knowledge on his release. This is not our decision and we had not given our consent on this,” he told reporters.
“We are not going to tolerate any such statement or any such decision which is not as per the Common Minimum Programme that we had agreed upon. We have decided to convey our displeasure to our partner so that such things do not happen in future,” he said.
He underlined that this issue does not figure in the CMP.
PDP spokesman and Education Minister Naeem Akhtar, on the other hand, said the decision was in line with the CMP which talks about engaging all stakeholders for establishing peace in Jammu and Kashmir.
“This (the release of Alam) has to be seen in proper perspective. It is an important part of our Common Minimum Programme to involve all stakeholders in the state, and across the Line of Control, for reconciliation and peace in the state,” Akhtar told PTI.
“If you want to have a dialogue with all stakeholders, which includes these leaders, you cannot engage them by keeping them in jail without anything substantial against them,” he added.
Akhtar said the courts had intervened on the detention of some of the leaders and set them free.
Asked about the opposition by BJP to Alam’s release, the PDP spokesman said he does not want to get into a public debate on it.”They have their own views but I don’t want to enter into a public debate on this issue. This is part of our CMP,” he added.
Another PDP leader and Minister for Science and Technology and Youth Services and Sports Imran Ansari claimed that BJP was with PDP in implementing Alamâ€™s release order.
“I donâ€™t think BJP has any apprehensions. They are with us. We have a coalition government. I donâ€™t think it is a genuine thing to make any issue of that. The courts have released him and the Home Ministry implemented that order,” he said.
Jugal Kishore Sharma, on the other hand, insisted that, “This step does not have consent of BJP. Nor was BJP consulted before taking such a decision.”
Alam was released yesterday after four and a half year detention in connection with widespread protests in Kashmir in 2010 in which over 2010 people were killed.
“We were not asked before releasing Masarat Alam. If they had asked us, we would not have given approval from our side on this and even today our consent is not with this decision,” the BJP leader said.
“Such people should not have been released as they only spit anti-India venom… If you leave such people like this without any conditions, they will always resort to such (separatist) slogans,” he said.
He said the issue will be discussed further within BJP.
“..We will clear our stand to PDP. BJP is not dependent on any party. BJP is in power on its own strength,” he said, adding his party had joined hands with PDP for development of Jammu and Kashmir and for the betterment of people of the state.
To a question, Sharma said, “BJP has conveyed its stand (against the decision) and reacted to this. Our reactionÂ will reach them (PDP).”
Asked whether BJP will opt out of the government, he said “the situation has not come. We will sit with our partner and take a decision (with regard to such issue) so that in future such steps are not taken”.
BJP MLA Ravinder Raina said his party will never tolerate this “insult” to the nation. “Masarat Alam is a dreaded terrorist and we are ready to sacrifice 1000 such governments for the sake of nation’s pride,” he said.
Sharma, while ducking the questions of whether his party would ask the chief minister to order the re-arrest of Alam, said, “Our senior leader and deputy chief minister and other cabinet ministers are in Srinagar we will discuss this issue on their return.”
Despite these hiccups, the state BJP chief expressed confidence that the coalition government would complete its tenure of six years, “We have formed the government based on CMP and it should work for six years,” he said.
Sharma was asked to comment on the statement of a PDP leader that release of Alam was part of the CMP and that BJP was taken into confidence before the separatist leader was released.
“What I am telling you is true. We had no prior information on the release of Alam and this is not part of the CMP as the document is open to everyone. We had agreed to form the government to work for peace, prosperity and development for the state,” he replied.
When asked whether his party would withdraw from the government if such unilateral decisions were taken in future too he said, “As of now there is no question of taking back our support.”
Party in charge for Jammu and Kashmir and MP, Avinash Rai Khanna who specially arrived in Jammu to take part in the meeting said, “This government was formed on CMP and the government should follow the CMP.”
He said that BJP protests the release of Masarat Alam. “We protest his release and I must tell you that BJP was not taken into confidence on this decision,” he said.
Raina, who is an MLA from Nowshera, said BJP would protest the release of Alam. “Masarat Alam is a terrorist, he had crossed over to Pakistan and had planned and attacked several security forces camps in Kashmir. How can he be a political prisoner?”
Raina said the release of Alam is “an insult to the nation and we will not tolerate this insult of the country. Not one but we are ready to sacrifice a thousand governments for the sake of the honour of our country.”