Mockery of Mandate
BJP-PDP shift from MoU for governance, National Conference going soft on separatists abetting terrorism in valley makes no sense when we give a look at their poll manifestoes
The J&K Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti has to handle one of the toughest job among her other counterparts, firefighting all the while she has been in the saddle. Be it the violence after the Burhan Wani killing that killed more than a 100 people and blinded and maimed thousands or the Kashmir flag controversy the NIT fiasco, the Handwara killings over allegations that a college girl was molested, or the recent GST row — she just hasn’t had the time to have a sigh of relief. And now she is up against the biggest challenge of her political life. If she loses this one, she risks the chance of her party either getting wiped out or becoming irrelevant for a long time.
These days Mufti is trying to rally support over Kashmir’s special status that is facing what many here believe is a “judicial onslaught on its exclusive rights.” She has realized she needs to convince BJP - her alliance partner in J&K - and its right wing affiliates, more so, if she has to stay afloat as a regional satrap.
Mufti is exploring every bit of support to safeguard Article 35A that bars non locals from buying property or getting government jobs in the state. Article 35A gives the people of J&K exclusive rights and privileges in owning property and in getting jobs and scholarships.
The J&K chief minister apprised Prime Minister Narendra Modi of the “dangerous” consequences the state may face if the article is written off. At the end of the meeting Mehbooba claimed PM Modi was supportive. She is also seeking the support of Sonia Gandhi and other opposition leaders on the delicate issue.
Mufti has also met her main political rival and former chief minister Dr Farooq Abdullah and state opposition leaders to
build a consensus that Article 35A needs to stay.
Her People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and Abdullah’s National Conference (NC) have strode to power advocating self rule and greater autonomy for the state. And Articles 35A and 370 lie at the core of their political philosophy. Both the Kashmir-centric parties have committed to do whatever it takes to ensure the 35A is protected. Mufti warned Centre that “there will be no one to carry the tricolour in state if the act was tinkered with.” Abdullah said its abrogation would provoke a bigger agitation than 2008 Amarnath unrest.
The separatists, rocked by the recent arrests by NIA, have not taken Centrestage yet except for calling a strike on Saturday. The Kashmir traders, Kashmir chamber and transporters bodies have allayed fears and held protests.
But it is PDP and NC which will face existential crisis if 35A is shot down. They know for sure that for common Kashmiris, these are articles of faith on which their future hinges too. Especially, at a time when space for mainstream is shrinking due to the unabated violence following the killing of militant commander Burhan Wani.
OPTIONS BEFORE MEHBOOBA
Unfortunately, Mufti’s options are limited and she relies heavily on Centre to bail her out from a precarious position. On ground, she is exploring both the legal and political options.
Her government has filed a counter affidavit arguing similar pleas had been rejected by the apex court previously. Her legal team is contending and hoping the petition filed by the NGO, We the Citizens, is dismissed even though Supreme Court has said the issue needs be disposed off after six weeks. The case is likely to come up for hearing in the last week of this month.
Mufti’s worries are only growing as the Centre has remained non committal on the issue and not filed a counter affidavit. In fact, the BJP-led government feels that it needs to be examined whether the special status enshrined by Article 370 benefited or hurt Jammu and Kashmir.
Meanwhile, her government has begun preparing to contest the case. In the brief counter affidavit that was filed before the apex court, the J&K Law department will quote two judgments: Puranlal Lakhanpal Vs President of India & Others, (1962) and Sampat Prakash v. State of Jammu and Kashmir and Another, (1969). Both the Judgements endorse the state government’s views on the matter and benefit all state subjects of the state. The Mufti government has hired constitutional expert Fali Nariman to head the team to contest the case.
But it’s Narendra Modi-led NDA government’s unclear stand on the issue that is giving her sleepless nights.
So far, Delhi has decided not to file a counter-affidavit in the matter.
By abstaining from filing a counteraffidavit, Delhi has apparently toed the line of the petitioner, which is a “dangerous” approach, the opposition NC warned, and could lead to an “irreparable damage” to the state’s special status.
Politically too, Mufti’s options are few. She cannot do much except hope her
ALIBI MASTERS: Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh and Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti