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Defensive shuffle : On Kathua, the BJP is presenting one narrative to Jammu, another to the rest of India


Defensive shuffle : On Kathua, the BJP is presenting one narrative to Jammu, another to the rest of India

Last Updated on : 20 Apr,2018 | Source : Opinion/The Hindu

New Delhi:
In its reaction to the rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl in Kathua, the BJP seems motivated by a need to strike a balance between protecting its political constituency in Jammu and addressing the public outrage countrywide. Two of its Ministers in the Mehbooba Mufti government — Lal Singh and Chander Prakash Ganga — had participated in a rally organised by the Hindu Ekta Manch in support of the accused in the case, but the BJP was slow to act against them. Under pressure from Ms. Mufti, they were asked to submit their resignations, but the BJP made it seem to be part of a larger exercise of a shuffle in the Cabinet. Even when their continuance in the Cabinet became untenable, the BJP was intent on protecting the two from any shadow of guilt. Soon after the two Ministers handed in their resignations, the party asked all its nine Ministers to step down, apparently to bring in new faces. Clearly, the BJP is hoping to present one narrative to the Jammu region, and quite another to Kashmir and the rest of India. While promising justice to the rape victims, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had nothing to say about his own party’s attempts to obstruct the course of justice in Kathua. The resignations ensured the continuance of the government, but the episode has cast harsh, unflattering light on the utter incongruity of the alliance.

Neither the Peoples Democratic Party nor the BJP wants to end their coalition over this issue; however, the two parties serve very different political constituencies, both demographically and geographically. What brought them together was not some shared political objectives, but the PDP’s interest in keeping the National Conference out, and the BJP’s in keeping the Congress out. The alliance was born of short-term electoral expediency rather than any long-term political strategy. After the death of Mufti Mohammed Sayeed in January 2016, the alliance came under new strains with Ms. Mufti attempting to adopt a more independent line, one that was in consonance with feedback from the cadre. But just as the two parties cannot fight the elections on the same electoral plank, they cannot afford to let go of their stakes in this government, for fear of conceding political space to their principal rivals. Closer to the next Assembly election in 2020, the alliance is likely to come under greater strain as the benefits of continuing in government will be outweighed by the risks of approaching an election together. Another similarly contentious issue closer to 2020 might not see the PDP and the BJP so eager to reach a compromise.

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