The turn of events in Jammu and Kashmir through past few days in the wake of the demise of Mufti Mohammad Sayeed has left little option for the Bharatiya Janata Party other than to support his daughter Mehbooba Mufti’s ascent to the State’s top post.
This is mainly so because the relatively ‘light weight’ BJP Deputy Chief Minister Dr Nirmal Singh has not only given way for a little spell of President’s rule in the State but also for the dilution of BJP’s consistent stand against dynasty driven succession in politics. This is despite the fact that among others Prime Minister Narendra Modi has avowedly been against what is called as ‘family rule’.
BJP insiders are asking, if sympathy factor is propelling Mehbooba to take over as Chief Minister in the wake of her father’s death with BJP support, why similar circumstances were ignored in the case of Pankaja Munde in Maharashtra whose father the late Gopinath Munde had met with quite a sudden death in an accident in Delhi a few days after being sworn in as a Union Minister in Modi’s Cabinet.
Not just this, the BJP old hats go on to remind us that Poonam Mahajan, the daughter of the late Pramod Mahajan was never thought to be worthy of the kind of ‘sympathy’ that may force the party to pave way for Mehbooba becoming Chief Minister of the border State.
Though Kashmir is quite different from Maharashtra yet such precedents are being cited in Jammu where those who deserved ‘sympathy’ from party ranks were given a cold shoulder in the past by BJP and RSS higher ups.
The detractors who do not like Mehbooba being supported for the post of Chief Minister go on to argue that had the late Mufti formed a coalition Government with Congress support Ghulam Nabi Azad could have easily become his successor instead of Mehbooba.
So they say that Dr Nirmal Singh is no Azad, nor is the BJP Deputy Chief Minister like Omar Abdullah. Lack of stature vis-à-vis Dr Singh is turning out to be a handicap, they point out and go on to add that this is proving to be quite advantageous for Mehbooba and her People’s Democratic Party.
Asked how did the party could not realize this earlier, Mehbooba’s detractors in BJP point out that Dr Jitendra Singh could have been a better choice for leading the party in the State instead of becoming a Central Minister.
To drive their point home about the difference in not only stature but also extent of devotion to public life between the two Dr Singhs, BJP sources point out that Dr Jitendra gave up his Jammu Medical College job unlike Dr Nirmal who did not quit Jammu University, where he taught History, after becoming Deputy Chief Minister.
As for how the party’s decision went so awry the blame is put on RSS. The BJP insiders point out that in the past Jammu and Kashmir politics was handled not only by full-time Parcharaks but also think-tanks like FINS or Forum for Integrated National Security where RSS’ Indresh Kumar was helped by a group of informed strategists from the forum.
Indresh Kumar reined in the BJP Pradesh Party because he felt that the BJP State level functionaries did not listen to their parent body, meaning the RSS. Indresh saw to it that the party gets marginalised so that he could bring order and discipline through its ranks. Thus, in 2002 Assembly polls only a single BJP MLA, Jugal Sharma, had won the polls from Nagrota and that too with a paltry 268 votes.
The next polls were held in 2008 when another RSS Pracharak Arun Kumar was based at Jammu. Like Indresh he too had the support of a think-tank called JKSC or Jammu and Kashmir Study Centre. During Kumar’s stewardship of the Parivar or saffron family in Jammu the heat generated by the Amarnath Yatra stir helped BJP to attain a respectable figure of 11 members in the Assembly.
The last polls held in 2014 brought the highest ever tally of 25 MLAs to the BJP, putting it in a position to be a part of the coalition Government led by the late Mufti. The coalition was a result of what is called in Parivar’s parlance as ‘Nutan Prayog’ or new experiment. It is this experiment that catapulted Dr Nirmal Singh to the post of Deputy Chief Minister, say the party insiders who add that he owes his position to the RSS incumbent Ram Madhav.
Now with Indresh being sent to Assam to look after the next Assembly polls billed for later this year and Arun Kumar shifting base to Delhi the onus to steer clear of the vexed Jammu and Kashmir politics lies on mainly Ram Madav and Dr Nirmal Singh.
Both of them like their cohorts want Mehbooba to lay her cards on the table first (see the interview of BJP’s J&K point-man Avinash Rai Khanna in this issue). This is precursor to asking Mehbooba to reconfigure her father’s Council of Ministers.
This is more so since the last Chief Minister preferred to keep crucial portfolios like Home and Tourism in his own hands and Finance the late leader had parted with his trusted friend and banker Hasseb Drabu. Surely, the BJP had accepted this. But with change of guards the saffron party may expect to have a greater say than what was the case in Mufti’s time.