Reminiscing “golden times” under former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, former Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir Mehbooba Mufti on Monday asserted that she “suffered” by joining hands with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) under the current Narendra Modi-led central government.
Addressing party workers and supporters at the 19th Foundation Day celebration of the Peoples Democratic Party, Mehbooba stepped up her pitch in an attempt to regain the lost ground. She spoke about the struggles and difficulties she had to encounter as a chief minister while leading a coalition government with the BJP in the state.
Since the state prospered under the patronage of Vajpayee-led central government despite the fact that the PDP-Congress were alliance partners in the state, Mehbooba said, “Mufti Sahab (Mufti Mohammed Sayeed) agreed to join hands with BJP again (in 2015) because we had a good understanding during Vajpayee ji’s reign. But this time, it was a difficult decision. Forming an alliance with the BJP was like drinking poison. I suffered during the two years and two months of the alliance.”
The state went to assembly polls in 2014 end. Mufti Mohammed Sayeed became the chief minister in March 2015 by joining hands with the BJP. His party, PDP, won 28 seats and the BJP bagged 25 in a house of 87 members. Mufti did not even rule for a year, when he passed away in January 2016. For three months, Mehbooba stayed away from taking charge. Finally on April 4, 2016 she took oath as the first woman chief minister of the trouble-torn state.
Recollecting the days of Mufti Mohammed Sayeed during Vajpayee’s time, Mehbooba said: “Mufti Sahab and his time in the government was the golden time for the state. The state developed and prospered during that time. The militant activities were in control and there was peace in the state. There was ceasefire on the border. We constructed roads, colleges and universities.”
However, she added, “The moment the alliance ended and the government changed, all the work for peace came undone.” In the 2002 assembly elections, PDP and Congress formed the government in the state and Mufti became the chief minister. However, there was an understanding between the PDP and the Congress that the chief minister would be on a rotational basis. So, in a six-year term of the state assembly, Mufti was the chief minister for the first three years from 2002-2005. After that Congress senior leader Ghulam Nabi Azad became the chief minister. Subsequently there were strains in the alliance.
Talking about the growth of her party, Mehbooba said, “There was a clear vision in the mind of the Mufti Sahab. He had no confusion about the country and state.” She further talked about the work she did during her time as the chief minister of the state.
She said, “I did everything I could in the two years I had. I did not discriminate between Jammu and Kashmir. We opened same number of colleges for both the states. There was no corruption in government jobs.” She tried to clarify her party’s stand since there were allegations that Jammu was getting discriminated in infrastructure and developments.
She also addressed the Kathua rape case and said, “A rapist has no religion. The people who gave it a communal colour do not remember the valour of brave Dogra community.” She emphasised that she did not compromise anything when it came to the development of the state.
“We went through a lot of difficulties during the two years of alliance. I never spoke about it but today, I will not hold back,” said Mehbooba while talking about her time in the government.
Clearing the misgivings about her tenure, she further said, “I did not give up on anyone and stayed to work for the state. Even though the alliance ended, we are not sad about it because we did not form the alliance just to come in power. We had a bigger motive, the development of the state.”
On Saturday, Mehbooba urged the Centre to seize the opportunity by extending a hand of friendship with Pakistan’s Prime Minister-in-waiting Imran Khan so that issues between the two countries could be resolved.