Srinagar, Oct 1: The Jammu and Kashmir assembly session beginning on October 3 is going to be a litmus test of whether the ruling coalition made up of ideologically different Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) would survive its full six-year term in office or not.
Ever since the PDP-BJP alliance took office on March 1, the only thing in common between the two parties has been that there is no meeting ground on their ideological commitments.
The alliance was seriously rattled in the very beginning with the release of hard-line separatist leader Masrat Alam, a decision believed to have been exclusively taken by Chief Minister Mufti Muhammad Sayeed.
Although the crisis was finally managed by Alam’s re-arrest, a series of events in the last seven months has put a serious question mark over the survival of the alliance.
Another contentious issue straining the coalition is the state government imposing a tax on the helicopter service to the Mata Vaishno Devi shrine.
Though local BJP leaders, including Deputy Chief Minister Nirmal Singh, said the tax would be revoked, it hasn’t been done till date. The opposition Congress dubbed it as imposition of ‘jazia’, which certain Muslim rulers in medieval India imposed on non-Muslim subjects.
Another bone of contention is the re-assertion of an 1862 law by a division bench of the state high court banning bovine slaughter in Jammu and Kashmir, the only state in the country with a constitution and a penal code of its own.
The high court disposed of a public suit earlier this month with directions to the state police to strictly impose the ban.
An independent legislator, Engineer Rashid, has submitted a bill to the speaker to revoke the 1862 law. The bill will come up for discussion during the coming session of the legislative assembly.
The problem for the Valley-centric PDP is that the opposition National Conference, with 15 MLAs, has announced support to the PDP if it chose to vote in favour of the bill.
Ideologically, the BJP is committed to supporting the existing law that bans slaughter and sale of beef, even as some senior PDP leaders have opposed the order to enforce the ban.
Given his political acumen and experience, Chief Minister Sayeed is likely to survive the political storm to be generated over the beef ban order and the service tax on the helicopter service during the assembly session.
However, with each passing day, ideological cracks in the ruling coalition are growing wider, notwithstanding assertions by Sayeed and senior BJP leader Ram Madhav – in charge of J&K affairs – that the alliance will last six years in office.