Separatist’s release poses fresh challenge to PDP-BJP alliance

S.Nagesh Kumar

NEW DELHI: For the second time since he was sworn in on March 2, Jammu & Kashmir Chief Minister Mufti Mohammed Sayeed has caused deep discomfiture to the BJP and the Centre by his controversial statements and actions aimed at placating separatist elements.

His decision to release from Baramulla jail the hardline separatist Masarat Alam has not amused Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Government. Forty four year-old Alam has been in jail since 2010 in connection with a slew of cases for triggering violent clashes between security forces and Kashmiri youth that left more than 100 dead.

The Prime Minister minced no words when he told the Parliament on Monday that Alam’s release was unacceptable and that the decision was taken without the Centre’s consent.  “I lend my voice to the anger over the release of the separatist… this is not one party’s outrage, it is the nation’s outrage. There will be no compromise on the integrity of the nation,” Mr. Modi said.

Immediately after taking over as Chief Minister, Mr. Sayeed had riled the BJP by thanking “people from across the border” – an apparent reference to Pakistan – and militants for creating an atmosphere conducive for the conduct of smooth and peaceful Assembly elections in 2014. Home Minister Rajnath Singh issued a statement in Parliament distancing the Centre from this Mr. Sayeed’s stand and attributed the peaceful conduct of elections to the people of Kashmir, the Election Commission and the security forces.

Alam’s release stokes new controversy

Hardly had the embers of this controversy died down that Mr. Sayeed ordered the release of the separatist leader. This time the Prime Minister himself interjected to inform the Parliament that the J & K government had not consulted the Centre on “its activities post government formation,” last week.

A touchy Mr. Modi ticked off the Opposition, which was on its feet towards the end of his speech, by saying “don’t teach us patriotism.”  However, he had no response to offer to the suggestion of Congress floor leader Mallikarjun Kharge that, “if you feel so strongly about this, why doesn’t the BJP withdraw support to the PDP?”

Earlier, Home Minister Rajnath Singh said the Centre was not satisfied with the response of the Jammu & Kashmir government citing reasons for the release of Masarat Alam who faces charges of sedition. “I assure the House that after the full clarification from the state government, if needed, we will issue the most severe advisory,” he said.

Mufti working according to a plan

It is evident that the 79-year old PDP supremo is working to a systematic plan. The PDP-BJP alliance is a marriage of convenience caused by the peculiar nature of the electoral verdict. Mr. Sayeed would have preferred to sail with the National Conference or the Congress but they have virtually no representation from Jammu.

Any Government formed with their support would become a Valley-based Government that would alienate BJP-dominated Jammu. The only alternative was to ally with the BJP, a party with a completely opposite ideology, and face flak from the Hurriyat and others.

Keeping these compulsions in mind, the 79-year old PDP supremo is appearing to dare the BJP to withdraw support to his Government. This will help dilute, if not neutralize, the negative sentiment prevailing in the Valley over PDP’s alliance with the saffron party. His decision to allow JKLF leader Yaseen Malik to hold a huge rally in his Anantnag Assembly constituency, Anantnag, and deliver an anti-India speech is part of this plan. He wants to sideline the Hurriyat and gain an upper hand over the BJP.

The PDP says Alam has been released as part of its reconciliation effort and separatists cannot be engaged with or brought into the peace process if they continue to remain in jail. But, the heartburn caused by his release shows that testing times lie ahead for the PDP-BJP alliance. The public airing of differences in spite of the existence of a common minimum programme does not bode well for the alliance that is supposed to be at the helm for the next six years. The CMP indeed acknowledges their differences with Mr. Sayeed himself describing his party’s alliance with the BJP as being ‘the art of the possible and the managing of contradictions.’

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