As the war of attrition between allies BJP and PDP over the handling of the situation in Kashmir heats up, is the troubled state heading for another spell of Governor's rule?
Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti is expected to discuss the current crisis when she meets Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 23 April – against the backdrop of the 19 April meeting of the BJP core group that reviewed the law and order situation in Kashmir Valley, and is believed to have discussed the option of Central rule.
Later, the Prime Minister chaired another meeting that was attended, among others, by Home Minister Rajnath Singh, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, and the Army chief, General Bipin Rawat.
Quite understandably, the whispers of Governor's rule have upset the PDP.
"This is not good. We were elected on a joint plank, and it would have preferable for the BJP to talk to us directly instead of through the media. Hopefully, the air will clear after the meeting between the Chief Minister and the Prime Minister," said a senior PDP leader on condition of anonymity, given the sensitivity of the situation.
While Mehbooba will be in New Delhi for a meeting of the Chief Ministers of the states where the BJP is in power or in a coalition, she is learnt to have sought a one-on-one with Modi to discuss the Kashmir imbroglio.
The current round of tensions between the allies was sparked when an independent MLA from Zanskar constituency, Baqir Rizvi, hitherto a Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) supporter, crossed over to vote for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) nominee in the legislative council elections.
This was termed “backstabbing” by PDP leaders, who, as a mark of protest, did not attend Thursday’s swearing-in ceremony of the newly-elected council members in the winter capital Jammu. Mehbooba too, conveyed her displeasure to the BJP high command over the “cross-voting” of the independent MLA.
The PDP leadership believes Rizvi was successfully "turned" by the BJP.
This followed a statement by senior BJP leader and Industries Minister Chandra Prakash Ganga, who said in Jammu that stone pelters were anti-nationals against whom bullets should be used.
PDP Vice President Sartaj Madni termed this as "intimidating and insidious". He said the minister had contravened the decision of the state cabinet that had expressed anguish over the recent loss of precious human lives in the valley.
The BJP-PDP gulf widened further on Thursday after BJP General Secretary and pointsman on Jammu and Kashmir affairs, Ram Madhav, justified the army’s action of tying a youth to the front of a jeep to avoid stone-pelting attacks in Budgam district.
Madhav said the action had saved many lives as the soldiers were outnumbered by protesters. The other option would have been the use of bullets, which was avoided by the officer commanding the army detachment.
Madhav was even quoted as saying: "It's all fair in love and war."
These developments have come even as students’ unrest over security personnel entering a college in Pulwama last week appeared to gather strength. Videos posted on social networking sites showed security personnel beating up students inside the college premises.
Spontaneous protests broke out in universities, colleges and schools of the Valley over the Pulwama incident. For the last four days, teaching in these institutions has remained suspended, in addition to suspension of mobile Internet services in the valley.
With these developments, Mehbooba finds herself between the proverbial rock and a hard place, where her responsibilities as the Chief Minister and those as a pro-Kashmiri mainstream leader ironically appear at loggerheads with each other.
The BJP, with its right-wing ideology, is finding itself in a situation where it believes softening of attitude towards stone-pelters and separatists in the Valley would seriously dent its “strong nationalist image” in the Jammu region and in the rest of the country.
Entrenched in their stated positions, can the BJP and the PDP continue ruling the state in alliance?
Even going by the compulsions of politics, the continuance of the present coalition in Jammu and Kashmir looks highly improbable, if not outright impossible.
(This article has been published in an arrangement with IANS)