Friday, February 27, 2015

A Milestone in J&K

The meeting between PDP chief Mufti Mohammed Sayed and Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi to approve the common minimum program and seal the deal for a new alliance, once unthinkable in India's only Muslim-majority state, will go down in history has a milestone in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. It seems likely that Sayed will take oath as the next Chief Minister of the state this Sunday, while BJP leader Nirmal Singh will take oath as the Dy. CM, a historic moment for the people of Jammu who have virtually gotten used to being treated as second-class citizens in the state.

The PDP has 28 MLAs, the BJP 25 and 3 independents support the BJP, giving them a comfortable majority in the house and leaving the Congress as the LoP, with he NC being reduced to a small number of seats. This will make J&K the 13th State Government under the NDA fold, and the PDP could in turn join the Narendra Modi government in New Delhi. The new allies have already contested RS and LC elections together, giving the BJP its first local representatives from Kashmir.

This is yet another moment that shows just how far the BJP has gone, from being caste off as doomed after the 2009 loss in the general elections and subsequent assembly elections, to becoming the largest party in the country and overshadowing the Congress in every way. J&K becomes another state in the Union where the previously-ruling Congress has been relegated to the opposition.

But of course, J&K is quite different from other states. The rise of the BJP in the state is a huge blow to separatists in the valley who thought their anti-India rhetoric could keep the BJP out. It is an ever greater blow to Islamists there, who created and continue to create a sense of religious hatred between Jammu and Kashmir and who shamelessly took a pro-Islamist and anti-Hindu line in the election campaign. It is also a compromise for both the BJP and the PDP, who have had to sink their differences because of the nature of the mandate - the BJP has apparently put Article 370 on the backburner while the PDP has decided to take a 'humanitarian' view of West Pakistani refugees in Jammu, who are Hindu, and have been granted Indian citizenship but not state subject status.

The new alliance presents an exciting opportunity to turn the state around. With Modi's mantra of cooperative federalism, which he demonstrated by accepting the 14th Finance Commission's recommendations to transfer 42% of direct tax revenues to states, and Mufti's desire to end the cycle of violence and poverty for the state, only the sky is the limit.

And finally, just to see the geographic spread of the NDA in the country, aside from the Union Government, where the BJP enjoys an outright majority of its own, it is now possible to drive from the Himalayan mountains of Ladakh, take a detour to the forests of Jharkhand and then go to the beaches of Goa, without ever leaving NDA-controlled states. The Bay of Bengal (Andhra Pradesh) and the northeastern Himalayas (Nagaland) are the icing on the cake. 

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