Politics is a very tricky affair – a very complicated and risky business because it takes no time for the fortunes to swing; and one rarely knows until the proverbial rug slips from under the feet. Ruling PDP is the living example.
Recall 2014 Assembly elections, and the speeches of PDP top brass during electioneering. Recall how ‘CHANGE’, reconciliation and facilitation of dialogue between India and Pakistan and between Srinagar and New Delhi, and keeping the right-wing BJP at bay were marketed as party’s USP. Two-and-half years later, PDP, despite being in the ruling chair is visible nowhere, and BJP is seen everywhere, including in the Valley. And if there were any doubts about it until recently, those too were allayed by the PDP which gifted a Legislative Council seat to its coalition partner from Valley’s quota. So BJP actually has a legislator from Kashmir province too!
Though understanding was that in return the BJP will also facilitate PDP candidate’s entry into the Legislative Council from Jammu province, but it did not happen. With some deft political maneuvering BJP outwitted its ally. Publicly PDP may not concede it has been out-maneuvered, but it did make its frustration known Friday evening when its ministers and legislators including the newly elected Yasir Reshi boycotted the oath-taking ceremony of new MLCs in protest against the “backstabbing’’ by the BJP.
Here is the complete story: Six vacancies in the Legislative Council were going to polls on April 17. Of them, three seats were from Kashmir Valley, two in Jammu and one reserved for Poonch district. With its total strength of 58 members in the Assembly, the PDP-BJP coalition was set to win two seats in the Valley, the Poonch reserve seat and the one in Jammu region where the united opposition, with 31 votes, had backed Congress’s Balbir Singh for the second seat. As per the understanding between the coalition partners, PDP gave one of the two safe seats to BJP in the Valley and the one reserved for Poonch despite the fact that it did not have a single MLA from any of those two places. In return, BJP had pledged PDP a safe seat from Jammu province, with an understanding that its candidate Abdul Qayoom Dar will poll 30 votes leaving 28 for BJP’s Vikram Randhawa contesting the second vacancy considered unsafe in view of united opposition’s 31 votes.
As was already expected and anticipated, during the polling, independent MLA from Zanskar, Aga Syed Bakir Hussain Rizvi, who had later associated with PDP and was given MoS status besides the Vice-Chairmanship of Buildings & Other Constructions Workers Welfare Board, cross-voted for Randhawa resulting in a tie between two candidates who polled 29 votes each. Later, BJP’s Randhawa was declared elected through a draw of lots. Knowing before hand how events were going to unfold during the polling, PDP sought help of a senior BJP minister who instructed a party MLA from Chenab Valley to vote for the PDP candidate. But the legislator voted for Randhawa saying he had been issued a whip by his party.
This is it; PDP out-witted with great ease. Angry at all this, PDP showed its resentment by boycotting the oath-taking ceremony. Right then BJP leader and Industries Minister Chandra Prakash Ganga made a communally-loaded anti-Kashmiri statement. This was a God-sent opportunity for the PDP to up its ante against the coalition partner. Another chance of training guns at the BJP came when party’s national general secretary and stool-pigeon of its coalition with PDP, Ram Madhav made a statement in defence and justification of Army’s overly reprehensible act of using an innocent Kashmiri as human-shield to ward off and scare away stone-pelters in a Budgam village on the day of by-polls to Srinagar parliamentary constituency. Now PDP had one more reason to fire its verbal munitions at the BJP.
Sensing that coalition may be in trouble, same Ram Madhav ‘pigeoned’ his way to the winter capital and ironed out the differences, if there really were any. This is the end of the story. Those going gung-ho about PDP’s latest posturing and trying to read it as the party’s frustration at BJP’s cool and calculated silence in the face of very precarious situation in the Valley, are actually trying to manufacture reason which is just not there. And the reason for this is that PDP is practically in no position today to bargain for anything more than what this disconcerting status quo on Kashmir is offering it by default.
This is why I said right in the beginning that politics is a tricky affair. It is 2017, and not 2014. In past two-and-half years, PDP has lost much of its goodwill and rapport with its support base. Don’t know if the party realizes it, but this is how it is.