Within hours of his taking over as chief minister, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, in his first press conference gave credit to the separatists and Pakistan for allowing peaceful elections. This has left the BJP leaders red faced. The opposition parties in Parliament are up in arms about this statement although Prime Minister Modi and the NDA had distanced themselves from Mufti’s line of thinking. The BJP leaders are also embarrassed about some PDP MLAs asking that the mortal remains of Afzal Guru be handed over to them. These are just a few of the controversies at the beginning of the PDP-BJP coalition. Perhaps more are to come.
Jammu and Kashmir has seen several coalition governments in the past few decades but the present one led by Mufti Mohammad Sayeed is historic. This was the first time that aspirations of both Jammu and the valley have got representation in the state government. All along it had been the valley, which had dominated the state. This is an alliance of unnatural partners who had fought against each other in the elections and the two share nothing in common except their hunger for power. In spite of all these differences if the coalition could survive the next six years it will be an achievement of strange bedfellows.
The biggest challenge for Mufti is to find a find a working relationship with the BJP at the ground level. One wrong step by either of the parties will end in disaster. Will Mufti handle the contradictions both inside his cabinet and outside and also at the national level? There are already murmurs in the local BJP that they have not been given hefty portfolios. The other bigger challenge is to persuade the people of valley that the coalition with the BJP was not a sell out for the sake of power. It cannot be ruled out that issues like Article 370, AFSPA, West Pakistan refugees will crop up again in future and disturb the coalition.
Mufti has been talking about a dialogue with Pakistan and Hurriyat. He has also been claiming credit for confidence building measures like cross-LoC trade and bus service. Mufti will have to take them to the next level. The BJP and Prime Minister Modi are known for their tough stand against Pakistan and the Modi government even called off the Foreign secretary level talks between India and Pakistan some time ago because the Pakistan High commissioner met the Hurriyat leaders in Delhi. In such an atmosphere, how far Mufti succeeds in his efforts to bring New Delhi and Islamabad on the table is a question mark.