Days after its leadership had a huddle with the RSS, the BJP Tuesday pulled out of the Mehbooba Mufti-led coalition government in Srinagar, paving the way for Governor’s rule in the state by citing “the larger national interest” and the “deteriorating security situation”. Blaming the PDP for the fall of the alliance government, BJP general secretary Ram Madhav, in the presence of the party’s J&K leaders, told reporters in New Delhi that “continuance in the government had become untenable… responsibility for this kind of scenario lies with the other side”.
“Keeping in mind the larger national interest of India’s integrity and security, keeping in mind the fact that Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India, in order to bring control over the situation prevailing in the state, we have decided that it is time the reins of power in the state be handed over to the Governor,” Ram Madhav said. Though the announcement took the political class by surprise over its timing and the political calculation, the BJP sought to suggest that the “unenthusiastic response” to the Centre’s unilateral announcement of suspension of security operations during the month of Ramzan was the tipping point.
“Ceasefire was an opportunity given to the terrorists and separatists from a position of strength… but this goodwill gesture was not reciprocated,” Ram Madhav said, referring to the violence, including the killing of senior journalist Shujaat Bukhari, during the suspension of operations. “While the security forces have done a fabulous job in the last few years in containing the situation, the primary responsibility of maintaining law and order, which is managed by the state government, showed severe shortcomings. The ruling political dispensation in the Valley has shown least interest in improving the situation,” he said, targeting the Mehbooba Mufti-led PDP.
The sudden announcement came days after the BJP leadership’s dinner interaction with RSS pracharaks in-charge of state organisations across the country. The announcement Tuesday had the RSS cadres cheering. “Fayda hi fayda hai, koi nuksaan nahin hai. 90 pratishat janta is kadam ke saath hogi. Bahut badhiya decision hai,” said an influential RSS functionary, who attended the RSS-BJP interaction last week. The functionary, in fact, suggested that it was an electorally expedient move in an election year: “Chunao ke saal mein hi kiye jaate hain aise faisle (such decisions are taken in an election year).”
Sources in the BJP also played down theories of any risk from the political instability in the state, saying the issue would have a much larger resonance at the national level. “This move has national reverberations. It’s the beginning of the 2019 election campaign,” a BJP source said.
“For the BJP, J&K is a matter of great national importance. There is grave concern in the country over the deteriorating security situation in the state. National integration is paramount for the BJP and it can’t compromise on that question,” Ram Madhav said, squarely blaming the PDP.
Politically, the announcement Tuesday brings down the curtain on the three years of a coalition between the ideologically opposed BJP and PDP.
The BJP, which has been championing abolition of Article 370, had entered into an alliance with PDP, which was perceived by some in the BJP as being soft towards separatists, after protracted negotiations in 2015. Both parties justified the alliance with each other citing the fractured mandate where the BJP won massively in the Jammu region while the PDP took the Kashmir Valley.
The alliance did not go down well with BJP cadre across the country but the party took pains to explain the political compulsions to its party cadre and the RSS leadership before deciding to stay the course. “The unity and integrity of the country are article of faith for us. We are very clear about our mission of integration of J&K. National interest is our top priority (in Kashmir), and not remaining in power,” BJP president Amit Shah was learnt to have told the party national executive in Bengaluru in April 2015.