Jan 5, 2009

India - J&K;Out of power, PDP likely to push 'velvet separatism'

PDP LEADER Sayeed Mufti's residence Fairview, in the foothills of Zabarvan hills was the location for portions of the popular film Mission Kashmir. Now another 'mission' for Kashmir seems to be in the making, this time of a more real, political nature.

Fairview, less than a kilometer from would-be chief minister Omar Abdullah's Gupkar Road residence in Srinagar, is where Mufti Sayeed and his daughter, PDP president Mehbooba Mufti are busy drawing an outline of the party's role in resolving the Kashmir issue. Though PDP president Mehbooba Mufti has vowed to play the role of a "constructive opposition", political analysts think otherwise.

PDP, they say, is bound to raise contentious issues like self-rule, dual-currency, abrogation of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act and demilitarisation. "These issues are an article of faith for us," the PDP president has said many times in the past, making it clear that whether in the government or outside, her party would offer no concessions on what has come to be known as 'velvet separatism''.

Analysts, however, say that the PDP would want to strike a balance between working as an opposition as well as working aggressively on its agenda. But that might eventually "bring it in conflict with separatists", says Tahir Mohi-ud-Din, editor of Chattan.

The PDP had also emerged as the cheerleader of the demilitarisation issue in 2007 and had forced Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to constitute an expert group to look into the matter. Mehbooba has already demonstrated that she can generate sympathy for the party and its agenda.

Even the Jamait-i-Islami has voted for PDP in large numbers, helping it to sweep polls in south Kashmir. Emboldened by its increased support base PDP, say analysts, might want to stir up the Kashmir issue to upstage the separatists as well force the government to recognise it as a major influence in the Valley.

But, ultimately, say the analysts, it all depends on how the NC-Cong alliance functions in the state.

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