How Mehbooba Was Caught Off Guard By BJP Decision to Quit Kashmir Alliance

Though she has said she was not shocked, her actions on Tuesday morning suggest she did not see the decision coming.

Srinagar: The Bharatiya Janata Party’s decision to pull out of the government in Jammu and Kashmir caught Mehbooba Mufti so completely off guard that she was busy chairing a meeting at the civil secretariat on Tuesday afternoon just minutes before the BJP’s point man for J&K Ram Madhav dropped his “unexpected” bombshell in New Delhi.

Mehbooba had called the meeting at her office to discuss the recent Supreme Court ruling that allowed reservation in promotion for employees from SC and ST categories. The meeting that started around 1:30 pm lasted for almost half an hour, and was attended by chief secretary B.B. Vyas, principal secretary to the chief minister Rohit Kansal and the commissioner/secretaries from the law, finance, social welfare and general administration departments, apart from legislators from constituencies with an SC/ST population.

“We discussed the Supreme Court judgment and it was decided to study it further in proper perspective. It was also decided that a final decision will be taken only when the law minister (Basharat Bukhari, brother of slain journalist Shujaat Bukhari) resumes office,” a source told The Wire.

At no point during the meeting, however, was there the sense that Mehbooba had any idea about the BJP having decided to pull down the curtains on the government and end the “unholy” North Pole-South Pole alliance, the source said.

“One thing is certain that she (Mehbooba) had completely no knowledge about it (the BJP’s pull out). The very fact that she chaired the meeting tells it all,” the source continued, adding it was only after the meeting ended that Mehbooba came to know through media reports that her government had fallen.

Fifty-nine-year-old Mehbooba, whose tenure as chief minister lasted for a little over 25 months, had come to the secretariat office as usual in the morning, as had several PDP ministers, and cleared many files. But once the news was all over the media, the ministers started leaving their secretariat offices in a huff.

The chief minister was formally informed about the BJP’s decision by the governor N.N. Vohra over the phone, and that is when she decided to leave for her residence. A few senior PDP ministers followed her and there was a brief meeting at her residence, following which she submitted her resignation to the governor.

Though media reports were suggesting an impending end to the four-year PDP-BJP coalition from Monday evening, when all state BJP ministers and top leaders were summoned by the party leadership to New Delhi for a “crucial meeting”, the leaders from both parties had dismissed the reports as “fake” and a “laughable joke”. Even top bureaucrats from the state government were unaware about the BJP’s move till the last moment.

“Not at all. This is a joke,” a senior PDP leader had said about the news reports to The Wire late on Monday evening.

Today, however, Naem Akhter, a senior PDP minister and close confidante of Mehbooba, described the BJP’s decision as “unexpected move”, but added it was “politics and there is no room for emotions”.

“We have our own politics and we will never allow that to be diluted and perhaps that became the reason for them (BJP) to take the decision,” said Akhter.

In the evening, when Mehbooba addressed a hurriedly called press conference at her residence, she termed the BJP’s decision to bid the coalition goodbye as the party’s prerogative. “Nothing has shocked me,” she responded to a question if the BJP’s decision came as a shock to her.

“We were offered support by Congress and National Conference (after the 2014 assembly elections), but we chose to align with the BJP for reconciliation and dialogue,” said a subdued Mehbooba, who didn’t criticise the BJP for bringing down her government.

Mudasir Ahmad is a Srinagar-based reporter.