Project democracy has taken a blow in Kashmir Governor’s rule looms in Jammu and Kashmir after the BJP pulled out of its alliance with the PDP

New Delhi : Leave aside the blame game. Let’s consider the fallout from the BJP’s decision to walk out of the alliance it had with Mehbooba Mufti in Jammu and Kashmir.

The possibility of an alternative regime emerging from the current assembly is remote. Together, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), the National Conference (NC) and the Congress have the numbers to sew up a partnership. But they’d be daunted to take the plunge in the prevailing security situation in the Valley.

The NC’s Omar Abdullah has already ruled out the possibility. He said the mandate his party lost in 2014 hasn’t been regained with Mehbooba’s fall for his party to form an alternative regime.

In that sense, ‘Project Democracy’ (at the core of which is popularly mandated governance) is in a shambles in the troubled state. So are the nascent efforts at setting up an intra-Kashmir dialogue.

It was under Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s National Democratic Alliance (NDA) that the credibility of elections in Jammu and Kashmir was re-established in the 2002 assembly polls. The former prime minister’s “jamhooriyat, insaaniyat, Kashmiriyat” framework for peace and dialogue resonated with Mehbooba and her late father, Mufti Sayed, but not as much with his successor in the BJP dispensation.

I remember vividly the then foreign minister Jaswant Singh’s riposte to Pervez Musharraf in the run-up to the failed 2001 Agra Summit: “What he [Musharraf] calls the core dispute [of Kashmir] is at the core of our nationhood…” From that perspective, the abortive PDP-BJP experiment has hemorrhaged the ‘non-denominational secular state’ status our Constitution makers had willed us to negate Jinnah’s two-nation theory feeding on a Hindu-Muslim binary.

The BJP’s traditional base is in the Hindu-dominated Jammu and the PDP’s in the Muslim-majority Valley. The saffron party may still manage to salvage its ground. The same cannot be said about the PDP whose South Kashmir citadel is now a hotbed of militancy.

Regardless of a chunk of its constituency overlapping with the Hurriyat’s, the PDP broadly is a pro-India force in the Valley. The space it has ceded there cannot easily be reclaimed by any regional or national party. The enfeebling of Mehbooba could further strengthen separatism. That’s the danger.

Optically and politically, things could become difficult for Delhi — on the domestic and international front — if Governor’s Rule is imposed and there is no elected regime in place. With no buffer in the volatile province, the NDA would have no one but itself to blame for the mess that’s Kashmir.

If the divorce with the PDP is part of some perceptional battle the saffron party strives to win before the 2019 polls, a test it will need to immediately pass is the peaceful conduct of the Amarnath yatra. The question is whether that’s doable under the police leadership and bureaucracy inherited from the Mehbooba dispensation.

Bipartisan Kashmir watchers are also talking about the Governor’s office: the advisability,or otherwise, of a new incumbent at the hub from where the state will be administered through centrally-appointed advisors. The foremost task of the occupant of Raj Bhavan would be to reduce the gap that has grown between the army and the people.

Perhaps a retired general with humanitarian aura could pull that off. Lt. Gen (Retd) Ata Hasnain’s name is in circulation. It’s a good name. HT