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J&K governor’s move widened state trust deficit with Delhi or did it stop horse-trading?

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Within moments of PDP’s Mehbooba Mufti staking claim to form government in Jammu and Kashmir with the support of National Conference and Congress, Governor Satya Pal Malik dissolved the assembly citing ‘extensive horse trading’ and ideological differences in alliance.

ThePrint asks– J&K governor’s move widened state trust deficit with Delhi or did it stop horse-trading?

Assembly was kept alive only to help BJP explore unethical ways to form a govt

Mehboob Beg
Leader, PDP

The last 24 hours in Jammu & Kashmir have been full of political action.

I have been in public life for well over 30 years and never have I seen dramatic political developments like these — reports of attempts at horse-trading, political foes coming together, letters staking claim to form a government being sent through social media, the governor’s fax machine not working only to be restored to transmit the message that he has dissolved the assembly.

We need to recap what has been happening in J&K politics in the last few months. In a sudden development, the BJP withdrew support from the PDP-led government. This was followed by keeping the assembly alive and not dissolving it. All these months, the BJP was reportedly trying to muster together an alliance, obviously constituting sitting legislators from across the parties, no efforts were made to dissolve the assembly then despite these brazen attempts at horse-trading. In fact, it is trite to say that the assembly was kept alive only to encourage such attempts, at the behest of the BJP.

The day a credible alternative, which did not include the BJP came into being, the assembly was dissolved. Mehbooba Mufti sent a letter claiming support of 56 MLAs, comprising of three solid blocks, the PDP, the NC and the Congress, this was the first concrete possibility of a government formation in all these months.

It is strange that the assembly was kept alive when the only possibility of a government formation was through horse-trading and it was dissolved the very moment the possibility of a credible government formation looked like a done deal. The assembly was kept alive to help the BJP explore all the unethical ways to form a government and was dissolved the day a non-BJP government was to see the light of the day.

It is amply clear that this will only add to the existing trust deficit and can in no manner be seen as an attempt to stop horse-trading – that will only be laughable.

If PDP-NC-Congress formed govt in J&K, militancy and separatism would be back

Sunil Sethi
BJP spokesperson, Jammu and Kashmir

The BJP, while welcoming the decision of the governor, noted that circumstances leading to the decision gave little choice to him than to dissolve the assembly and uphold the spirit of democracy. It will stop the intrusion of immorality and opportunism in state politics.

The whole drama unfolded with Muzaffar Hussain Baig’s statement welcoming the formation of a government with Sajad Lone as leader. This move would have been in line with PDP’s ideology of forming a political viable alternative to the National Conference.

What happened subsequently was a step to stop the formation of a viable government in Jammu and Kashmir. In the process, the PDP was ready and willing to join hands with National Conference ignoring and insulting the efforts of its founder Mufti Mohd Sayeed. Sayeed would have never joined hands with the National Conference whom he recognised as the worst enemy of the people of Kashmir.

The events clearly show that there was no political compatibility and stability in the so-called alliance of the PDP, NC and Congress. It would have led to a disaster in the state and further alienation of the people. The PDP was counting the same MLAs on their side who had decided to be part of an alliance under Sajad Lone. This would have led to horse trading and unstable politics.

The people of Kashmir have now got a big opportunity to reject opportunistic PDP, NC and Congress because it is very clear that none of the three parties has any semblance of moral politics. Had they formed the government, it would have led to the revival of separatism and militancy in the Valley and negation of mandate. Time is ripe now for the emergence of a new political dispensation in Kashmir, which can listen to and work for people.

The alliance didn’t work out and we are back to being arch rivals

Tanvir Sadiq
Leader, National Conference

The Jammu & Kashmir governor’s decision will most definitely increase the trust deficit amongst the people of the state. Three regional parties of the state came together to protect and preserve Article 35A. The PDP has 28 MLAs, the NC has 15 and Congress has 12, which means we had a very clear majority and our claim to form government should have been approved.

The BJP mentioned horse trading. Why doesn’t the governor issue an inquiry on the MLAs, who were backed and supported by the BJP? How much were they purchased for?

The National Conference had been demanding a dissolution for the last 5 months, but our appeal was falling on deaf ears. As soon as Mehbooba Mufti sent the letter staking claim to form a government, the governor dissolved the assembly. Any alliance is inherently unstable. The UPA was an alliance of many parties, but it worked. So, this doesn’t make for a good enough reason at all.

Now, it isn’t for us to engage in a direct protest against the governor’s act yesterday. Since the letter was sent by the PDP, it is they who need to go ahead and do what they wish to. We will support that move from outside.

The alliance was only a measure to protect Article 35A. Things didn’t work out as we had planned, but now we are back to being arch rivals.

Governor has lost his credibility, has proven that he cannot operate fearlessly

Noor Ahmed Baba
Professor, Central University of Kashmir

Had the governor dissolved the assembly months earlier when the PDP-BJP alliance broke, it would’ve been a commendable move. Such a move would’ve established his independence and neutrality. But he didn’t, and people suspected he allowed the assembly to continue only to benefit the BJP.

Last night’s move came as a sudden reaction to the PDP’s claim to form the government. It only went on to establish his clear bias and partisanship. He has completely lost his credibility, and has proven that he cannot operate fearlessly. He seems to be operating under the direct command of the Centre.

Jammu and Kashmir’s politics has seen all twists and turns. One can now only hope the governor doesn’t call for elections during the winters. That will make it very difficult for people to participate in the elections. I don’t think elections should be held any time before early 2019. That would be closer to the national elections, and whatever happens at the national level will have a bearing on this and vice versa.

The BJP-PDP alliance wasn’t a popular one at all. People were largely disappointed with their work. So, when the PDP, the NC and the Congress announced an alliance, it must’ve been seen as a positive move. That being said, the alliance of the three parties isn’t likely to continue now. A triple alliance isn’t stable at all. So, while both the PDP as well as the BJP are at a disadvantage, the NC and the Congress are likely to benefit going ahead.

People of Jammu and Ladakh are equally disgruntled but their voices are sidelined

Divya Kesar
Advocate, Supreme Court 

Considering the current political developments in the state, the decision of the governor is prima facie surprising, but to say that it increases trust deficit might not be right.

The major trust deficit between the state and New Delhi arose in 1987 when Farooq Abdullah was reappointed as the chief minister, leading to insurgency in the state post the elections and exodus of Kashmiri Pandits.

Already, constitutional validity of Article 35A is under challenge before the Supreme Court of India. The political stand of parties is quite divisive qua the issue of Article 35A and Article 370.

It is unfortunate to see that the regional divide in the state has only widened. At the same time, to dissolve the assembly just to stop horse-trading does not appear logical either within the legal framework.

The fact remains that there is a trust deficit and it is widening each day. The people of Jammu and Ladakh are equally disgruntled but their voices are sidelined. It is for the incumbent government at the Centre to ensure that all the three regions of the state have equal representation to bridge the trust deficit. It cannot lose sight of the fact that the electoral win of the BJP and the PDP had heightened the expectations of the people of the state. It was presumed that it was about time to start a new chapter in the chequered history of the state. However, the current state of affairs has left the people of the state in the lurch, with several questions remaining unanswered.

Keeping J&K assembly in suspended animation led to brazen attempts at horse-trading

Manu Shrivatsa
Senior journalist from Jammu and Kashmir

People of all three regions of the state were least concerned about the ‘attempts’ made by three parties to form a government because the PDP has lost its credibility in Kashmir, and BJP in Jammu and Ladakh regions. There is no question of widening trust deficit because it was known to a majority of the people that the idea of the grand alliance was floated by the PDP leadership to avoid a split in the party. Within hours of Muzaffar Baigh hint to join Sajad Lone’s ‘third front’, the PDP managed to plant story of grand alliance just to keep its flock together.

The governor had already made up his mind to dissolve the assembly, but a BJP faction led by Ram Madhav was against the dissolution of the lower house.

Legal and constitutionally, the governor is right in dissolving the assembly. There was no letters of support from the National Conference or the Congress in Mehbooba Mufti’s stake to form the government. Same with the case of Sajad Lone’s claim, so, the governor did a right thing.

There is no question of widening trust deficit because the previous PDP-BJP regime was known for unprecedented confusions, misgovernance, favouritism, nepotism and corruption.

It is believed that rather than putting the assembly in suspended animation, former governor Vohra should have buried this discredited house in June 2018.

Keeping the assembly in suspended animation led to brazen, yet unsuccessful, attempts of horse trading, splitting regional parties, engineering defections.

Is buying MLAs kosher only when the BJP does it?

Maneesh Chhibber
Editor, Investigations and special initiatives 

What happened yesterday in J&K made for a great political story. However, the story may have pushed the militancy-hit state back by a few years.

Since coming to power in 2014, the Narendra Modi government and the BJP have been guilty of repeatedly committing mistakes, most of them knowingly, to widen the chasm and the trust deficit between the people of Kashmir and rest of India.

The governor may claim that he took the sudden decision to dissolve the assembly to prevent horse-trading but this explanation doesn’t hold. Why wasn’t the same done in July-August when the BJP and Sajad Lone’s People’s Conference tried to break Mehbooba Mufti’s PDP and Omar Abdullah’s National Conference? Or is buying MLAs kosher only when the BJP does it?

The governor acted, clearly on the instructions of the Centre and the BJP, only after it became clear that the PDP-Congress-NC alliance had the numbers to form the next government. The dissolution was only done to check the three parties from forming government.

In this day and age, the excuse by the governor’s office that Mehbooba Mufti’s letter staking claim did not reach since it was a holiday and there was nobody sitting next to the fax machine, is laughable.

There is nothing new if one says the situation in the state has gone from bad to worse in the last few years. But, the mounting deaths – civilian and security personnel – apart, the most worrying aspect is the fact that the sense of alienation that prevails among the ordinary Kashmiris has increased. Unfortunately, the governor’s decision will only add to this.

The BJP leadership is also playing with fire when it says the move by the three parties to come together to form the government was on the instructions of Pakistan. Someone should ask the BJP if their decision to join hands with the PDP (who were always known to be soft on separatists) after the last assembly elections was also dictated by Pakistan?

By Fatima Khan, journalist at ThePrint. You can follow her on twitter @khanthefatima.

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