BLUNT BUTCHER / ANCHOR
Curtains are drawn and the pretended bonhomie between PDP and BJP stands exposed. The Monday elections to the Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Council speak volumes about bitterness between the ruling coalition partners. The victory of BJP’s Vikram Randhawa over Abdul Qayoom Dar of the PDP is a direct challenge to the leadership of Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, who is braving odds on numerous fronts. Ironically, the challenge is from within.
Humbled by the National Conference in crucial parliamentary by-elections from Srinagar seat, the loss in Legislative Council is yet another jolt that has sent the senior ruling partner in jittery.
The loss of face in the Council elections is attributed to shifting of loyalty by the PDP-friendly independent MLA from Zanaskar, Mohammed Bakir Rizvi. He has been fired within hours of the result and removed as Vice Chairperson of the J and K Workers’ Welfare Board, with the status of Minister of State. This is seen as PDP’s desperate snub to BJP supremo Amit Shah, at whose behest Rizvi had cast his vote in favour of the BJP nominee. Rizvi is reported to have confessed to a national daily that Amit Shah had sought his vote and accordingly he cast it in favour of a coalition candidate. He may be trying to play smart with words like coalition candidate but the damage is done, raising many questions.
The BJP National President knew it well that Rizvi was an ally of the PDP. Therefore, the question arises as to why his vote should have been sought at all, bypassing the senior coalition partner. Dar was considered as a safe candidate but the situation developed in such a way that he got entangled in a tie. It is different that the toss favoured Randhawa. It could have gone either way but the mute question remains as to why such a situation developed at all.
The PDP has a reason to be annoyed. The loss of a seat in the Council should be seen as writing on the wall. It is not that the BJP may be intending to put the continuation of the government in jeopardy but certainly it is a ploy to keep the Chief Minister under pressure. The BJP knows the vulnerability of the PDP in the Valley, once its stronghold.
What has changed the equation between the North Pole and the South Pole? All does not seem to be well between the two. The lowest ever poll percentage in Srinagar bypolls has more to do with the management than the boycott call given by separatists. Intimidation of Kashmir voters and provocative boycott calls by separatists have never worked during the past two decades but it left an indelible mark with nearly eight per cent votes polled, each percentage costing a life.
The complexion of the bypolls changed soon after three persons got killed in Chadoora area of the Budgam District, as the forces cordoned off a hideout that led to résistance by the local population. This created a sense of fear in the entire constituency and impacted the poll percentage.
To analyse the Chadoora incident, it is really difficult to comprehend as to why the forces should have got engaged in anti-militancy operations with just a few days left to the crucial polls. It is not that terrorists were roaming in that particular area only. Their presence was almost all over the Valley. Sagacity would have demanded to show restraint for smooth conduct of the polls but it was not like that. The Chadoora incident created scare among the PDP cadres though it impacted the vote bank of NC too. But the element of annoyance over the action against stone-pelting Chadoora youth recoiled against the PDP. The NC voters, howsoever little, were committed who braved the situation and made it to the polling booths. The outcome was evident by the time polling wrapped up. Farooq Abdullah’s victory was a foregone conclusion, notwithstanding the fact that low poll percentage is always considered as the benefit to the ruling party. This perception also changed and the PDP faced its first and major blow in Srinagar which led them to seek deferment of Anantnag polls where son of Mufti Mohammed Sayeed and brother of the Chief Minister was trying his first political test.
Farooq Abdullah victory might have rattled the PDP but the BJP appears to unruffled. This is intriguing!
The Muftis stand marginalised, not only in terms of losing a seat in the Legislative Council or in the Srinagar bypolls but due to ‘calculated’ craftsmanship of the BJP which made Rizvi to change the course. Will marginalised PDP serve the purpose of the BJP in Kashmir? Will Mehbooba Mufti allow her party to get submerged? The ensuing days are crucial for Kashmir politics, especially on the face of situation getting volatile with each passing moment.
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