When your father took ill, my heart went out to you. Having seen my father in and out of hospital for the better part of two years and then having had both parents recover from major surgery, I know how difficult it would have been for you to see your father unwell. When news of his demise came, my concern turned to sorrow at your loss, at your family’s loss and at the state’s loss. I have never considered Mufti Sahib an enemy, a person to be hated or despised. For me, he was a political opponent, close in age to my father, deserving of respect and regard. I opposed him tooth and nail, but would like to believe I never crossed the line of decency in to the realm of personalized attacks. When your reluctance to take over the mantle from your father became known, I was one of the few people who refused to attribute motive to it. Discussions were conducted and articles were written trying to suggest that your refusal was part of some Machiavellian plan to pressurize your allies as well as your colleagues. I stood firm in my belief that the person I saw weeping at her father’s grave could not possibly be scheming behind a mask of grief. The grief was too raw, too real to be an act designed to conceal some sinister plan to grab glory.
Your reluctance to step up and take charge meant that in less than a year, the state had to be placed under central rule again. No state should be denied an elected government, but I took some consolation from the belief, alas mistaken, that central rule would be a short-lived affair and you would take over after the four days of mourning.
Your silence meant others rushed in to fill the void. The animal that is the 24-hour news cycle had to be fed, and if facts weren’t available, leaks and speculation would have to do. People close to you, or pretending to be close to you, started to spin your reluctance as a negotiating tactic. It was made known that the alliance was teetering on the brink of an abyss. The Agenda for Alliance, the final policy document bequeathed to you by MuftiSahib, had been ignored by your allies and you were angry. We were told that you would not take over unless you had firm assurances from no lesser person than the Prime Minister. That unless parts of it were implemented immediately, you would walk away from the alliance with the BJP. Television channels were told that you had reservations about the structure of the coalition, the distribution of portfolios and a host of other matters.
The people of the state, among whom I count myself, have not been privy to your thoughts, so we had to base all our expectations on what we have read and seen. The flood victims expected to see a bigger flood relief package; industry expected to see the return of power projects; contractors expected to see more money for development; and unemployed youngsters expected to see more jobs. Civil society was heartened to read that you were negotiating to ensure that divisive issues like the attack on our flag and threat to our special constitutional status would end. Can you blame us for expecting to see all this? Of course you can’t, because this was part of the information being fed to us from people around you.
Finally we were told that you had called a Core Group meeting of your party and that the people of the state could expect some announcements. At the very least, we expected some clarity to shine through and dissolve the fog of uncertainty that had enveloped the state ever since the reports of Mufti Sahib being seriously ill first reached us.
Thank you for clarifying that we should not expect anything. Thank you for clarifying that the Agenda for Alliance is “a sacred document”, the same document that only a few days ago had been termed a failure by your own senior colleague. Thank you for clarifying that no new demands are being made of your allies, that no concessions are being sought. At least we know that it will be business as usual when the business of governing resumes.
Which brings me to the one question I want to ask you – why are we being made to wait for a government? Your alliance with the BJP stands and no fresh negotiations are taking place, so why is the state under central rule? What are you waiting for, Mehbooba?
Are you afraid? Of course you must be. I would be terrified if I was in your place. I can’t imagine how difficult it would be for you to take over without the benefit of your father’s guidance and wisdom to steer your decisions. Unfortunately, you don’t get to choose the circumstances under which you assume the responsibilities of the CM of J&K, but your fear can not be grounds enough to deny the people an elected government. The road ahead will be rocky and you will not know who you can turn to for objective, impartial advice but you must either rise to the occasion or else step back. The people of the state cannot be expected to wait for you to make up your mind. Taking over now is not a sign of being power hungry, but not taking over is certainly an abuse of the trust the people placed in you and your party.
If you are unable or unwilling to assume the responsibilities that are being placed on your shoulders, then you must do your duty to the people, recommend to His Excellency The Governor to dissolve the Assembly, and let the people make a fresh decision in an election. To dilly-dally is the biggest disservice you can do to us, the people of J&K.