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BJP Dumps PDP: Why Now, Who Gains, and What Next

No phone call, no text, not even an e-mail. The Bharatiya Janata Party communicated its decision to dump the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in Jammu and Kashmir in a news conference on the afternoon of Tuesday, 19 June.

“It is untenable for BJP to continue its alliance with PDP in Jammu & Kashmir... Despite all assistance from the Centre, the PDP has not been successful in fulfilling its promises to the people of Jammu and Kashmir”, announced BJP’s J&K state in-charge Ram Madhav.

Outwitted and out of options, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti resigned, ringing the death knell for the alliance that was deemed “anti-national”, even “unholy” by the Opposition.

Here’s separating the political rhetoric from the facts:

Why Now?

  • Opportunity to take the higher moral ground on the killing of Shujaat Bukhari.
  • Modi government’s offer to cease operations for the month of Ramzan backfired with the murder of rifleman Aurangzeb and four BSF personnel in separate attacks.
  • It will allow the BJP to rake up its demand to dissolve Article 370 ahead of the 2019 election.
  • Consolidate its voter base in Jammu, which was anyway polarised after the Kathua gangrape case.
  • Take a lead on the PDP, pin the blame on the alliance partner for the escalating violence in the Valley.

Where Does the PDP Stand Now?

  • Outsmarted, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti submitted her resignation to the governor.
  • She attacked the BJP’s ‘muscular politics’, said the Centre cannot treat Kashmir like ‘enemy territory’.
  • She also claimed credit for the unilateral ceasefire and the defence of Article 370.
  • Politically, the BJP’s polarisation narrative could also work in Mufti’s favour.
  • Mufti could bank upon her father Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s legacy to remind the people of Kashmir about her political roots.

What About the Congress?

  • This is Rahul Gandhi’s ‘I told you so’ moment. The Congress will claim it stands vindicated in calling the PDP-BJP alliance ‘unholy’.
  • The Congress is unlikely to dump the National Conference and ally with the PDP. In doing so, it will try and send a positive message to existing and prospective allies.
  • But, fact remains, the Congress with its 12 MLAs and the PDP with 15 MLAs do not have the numbers to form the government.
  • Even with the support of the CPI(M) (1 MLA), the J&K People’s Democratic Front (1 MLA) and the Independents (5 MLAs), the alliance would be 10 MLAs short of the required 44 MLAs in the 87-member Assembly.

What About the Immediate Future of J&K?

  • The state will come under Governor’s Rule.
  • The state election could be held along with the upcoming Lok Sabha election. But this will depend on whether the Assembly is dissolved and placed under suspended animation.