- Rajeev Sharma
The Narendra Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has tied itself in knots after forming a coalition government with the radical People's Democratic Party (PDP) in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), the only Muslim-dominated Indian state. Modi has taken a personal interest in ensuring that his party becomes one of the ruling parties in J&K for the first time ever.
The BJP-PDP political marriage is the net result of power politics. It has upset the BJP's mothership, the hardcore Hindu nationalist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) movement, which looks at the PDP as a party that has a soft spot for militants and insurgents. The two parties are driven by drastically different ideologies.
The BJP's political leadership has dismissed all the naysayers. The rightist party's main argument in doing so has been that it came into politics for power and there is no virtue in sitting out in the opposition or as fringe political players when it had a brilliant chance of becoming part of the power structure itself.
Though the BJP is now part of the governance architecture of J&K for the first time and also has its own deputy chief minister, the coalition will inevitably prove to be a paper boat set dubiously afloat in Kashmir's Dal Lake.
The move may boomerang and cost the BJP heavily in the near future, though the Modi government is trying to keep the tenuous alliance with the PDP alive.
The Mufti Mohammad Sayeed government has already delivered a blow to the BJP by releasing hardcore Kashmiri separatist leader Masarat Alam. To rub it in further, Alam is going to sue the government for detaining him illegally all these years.
Modi himself has told parliament that he joins the House and the country in expressing anger over the J&K government's move.
Sayeed, the 79-year-old chief minister of J&K, is proving to be the undoing of his own coalition partner, the BJP. The Indian media has been full of reports that the chief minister may release many more controversial prisoners and the number could run into the hundreds, including prominent separatists like Ashiq Hussain Faktoo, Muhammed Shafi Khan and Ghulam Qadir Bhat. The PDP's argument is that these separatists were unfairly charged.
Look at a remark made by Jammu and Kashmir Education Minister and PDP chief spokesperson Naeem Akhtar: "Our policy is not keeping people in jails beyond the call of law. That is our policy and there is nothing new about it. Everyone knows that we will pursue this policy. So we will not keep anybody in jail unless it is required by law."
This goes against the very grain of the BJP's nationalist politics and ideology. The entire opposition, led by the Congress party, is up in arms against the Modi government on this issue and is leaving no stone unturned in scoring political points against Modi and the BJP.
The Congress party has been unrelenting in its opposition to the release of Alam. This is what Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said: "We strongly condemn the release of hard line Huriyat leader, Masrat Alam, responsible for widespread anti-India protests and unprecedented stone pelting incidents in J&K in 2010 that led to death of 112 persons. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP must answer as to why peaceful atmosphere of J&K is being sought to be disturbed by successive unilateral moves by PDP-BJP government."
It looks like that the Modi government has swallowed a red hot coal, while the PDP is cleverly implementing its political agenda and catering to its constituency.
An ugly political slugfest has already broken out between the two coalition partners. There are only two possible scenarios right now: Either the coalition partners sort out their differences or the two sever their alliance and go their separate ways. The latter seems to be on the cards, sooner rather than later.
In all this, Modi and the BJP will be the ultimate sufferers.
(The author is a New Delhi-based independent journalist and a political commentator. firstname.lastname@example.org.)