The decision of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to withdraw from the Jammu and Kashmir government stemmed from its desire to protect its “core support base”, especially in Jammu, avoid future “political costs” at the national level that would have come with staying on in the alliance in the run-up to the 2019 general elections, scale up “internal security operations” both in the state and “across the border”, and exercise direct control through
Governor’s rule, said two party leaders involved in formulating the BJP’s Kashmir strategy.
The BJP had two primary concerns, said one of the leaders quoted above, who is also a Union minister.
First, Mehbooba Mufti’s approach towards issues such as the scale and intensity of security operations was not in sync with the BJP’s, and the divergence was growing.
The ceasefire during Ramzan was announced at her instance and she wanted the gesture to continue even after Eid, he said. The BJP wanted to scale up operations; Mufti wanted to scale them down.
The BJP wanted a muscular approach towards Pakistan; she favoured talks with the western neighbour. A major point of disagreement was the space that security forces should be allowed while operating in the Valley.
The suspicion of foul play in a matter relating to Major Leetul Gogoi and a woman, reports about trouble-makers from the Valley being let off without much action, a deteriorating law and order situation, increased cases of attack on security personnel and feedback from party leaders made the BJP decide to pull out.
“2017 was largely peaceful and many terrorist were eliminated,” the minister said. “2018 turned out to the bad.” The government was, he said, carrying out offensives across the line of control, but the PDP was not forthcoming in dealing with the elements on this side of the border.
All this prompted the second concern in the BJP: the growing unease among its “nationalist” constituency in Jammu and outside that the party was going “soft”. The party, the second leader said, realised the need to reach out to this support base, which gave it an unprecedented 25 assembly seats in the November-December 2014 election.
“J&K is an emotive issue for our supporters – from Kanyakumari to Kashmir,” the second leader said. “Concerns of our support base, and its growing sense of hurt, were factored in before pulling the plug on the alliance,” the minister said.
Governor’s rule, which will bring the state under the Centre’s direct control, helps the BJP address both its concerns.
First, the first BJP leader and Union Minister said, the central political leadership will give security forces more elbow room to operate. The offensive will grow both “across the Line of Control” and “in the Valley”, to flush out troublemakers. “The ceasefire helped us identify who wanted peace, and who wanted to create trouble,” a senior government official said.
Any increase in the offensive against Pakistan, terror groups sponsored by it, the separatist and other terror outfit helps BJP address its second concern.
More direct control also helps the BJP in deciding how money is spent between the three regions of J&K: Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh. “In three years, the outgoing government could not spend even Rs 35,000 crore, out of total 1 lakh crore of the Kashmir package,” the first BJP leader said.
“We have ensured that J&K gets sufficient funds for its development projects and there is equitable distribution of resources between the three regions,” Jitendra Singh, a junior minister in Prime Minister’s office, said.
This motivation — of enabling unimpeded security operations to ramp up political advantage or “avoid political costs” — led the BJP to withdraw support and clear the way to bring Jammu and Kashmir under direct control of the Central government.