The worsening situation post 2016 uprising following Hizb commander Burhan Wani’s killing, mounting civilian killings coupled with some anti people speeches made Mehbooba the most loathed political figure in Kashmir, writes Majid Maqbool
The rocky and eventful three years of PDP-BJP coalition government in Jammu & Kashmir–whose end was abruptly announced by Ram Madhav, BJP’s points-man for J&K, in a press conference in New Delhi–were tellingly drawn by Kashmiri cartoonists who pointed out the mismatch, the dangers and the unpopularity of the unlikely alliance through their cartoons published over the past three years in the local press. Their gaze on the politics of the alliance was unflinching and sharp. In their cartoons, they sketched the growing friction within the coalition, lampooning the alliance architects, mirroring the public perception of an odd marriage between two ideologically opposite parties.
Suhail Naqshbandi, noted cartoonist for the leading Kashmir daily Greater Kashmir says the ending of the alliance before the completion of its term was likely as the two parties succumbed to the greed of short term gains in the absence of political foresight. Out of all of this, he emphasises, the PDP has been a sore loser from the start. “They (PDP) started the coalition on the basis of a betrayal to their voter base. In the run up to the elections, the only agenda they were harping on was to keep the right wing BJP out of state and power but they ultimately ended up doing the opposite by partnering with their nemesis,” says Naqshbandi. “It was in hindsight a political harakiri of stupidest proportions.”
Naqshbandi believes PDP’s biggest loss has been losing their home turf, the south of Kashmir, which is now the hotbed of new age militancy. “The resentment there is so palpable that people celebrated the downfall of their friend turned foe Mehbooba Mufti by bursting firecrackers,” he says. “People somewhat derived some pleasure out of PDP’s embarrassment and defeat out of this doomed alliance.”
The worsening situation post 2016 uprising following Hizb commander Burhan Wani’s killing, mounting civilian killings coupled with some anti people speeches made Mehbooba the most loathed political figure in Kashmir, as per Naqshbandi. “She also has rendered herself a political untouchable as no regional party wants anything to do with the PDP now,” he says. “On the contrary BJP drove political mileage from every step of the coalition rule and technically they are now controlling the State through the governor.”
In one of his cartoons made a year ago, Naqshbandi showed the agenda alliance in the form of a book titled ‘agenda of lies’ with rodents eating away its spine as it lies unattended, gathering dust in a corner. In another cartoon made more than a year ago, PDP is shown as a person desperately hanging from the cliff, about to fall, while shouting ‘Vajpayee ka vaasta’ to the BJP coalition partner who sits comfortably, lounging unconcerned on the chair away from the cliff. Another cartoon he made showed a central minister taking away power projects from the State while snubbing Mehbooba Mufti, “You are powerless!”
Mir Suhail, a young Kashmiri cartoonist says the PDP-BJP coalition government was hated by majority of people in Jammu and Kashmir right from the initial days of alliance formation as people from both the regions had witnessed how PDP and BJP during their election campaign had sought votes from the people in order to keep each other out of power. “It was not difficult to image that the alliance would not last long,” says Suhail. “Naturally I reflected that public dissatisfaction and anger through several of my cartoons made over the last three years.”
In one of his cartoons drawn in July 2016, Suhail depicted the coalition government in the form of a two headed donkey, with both the heads pulling in the opposite direction. Another cartoon drawn in the same year showed a BJP partner bullying and dragging along a ruffled PDP partner, pointing out that the BJP is in control, dictating terms as a big brother in the coalition government, while the PDP has no choice other than staying quiet and get along. In another cartoon made in early 2016, chief minister Mehbooba Mufti is shown tightly holding on to her chair and running away with it while the BJP grabs the Kashmir region and runs away in opposite direction.
Tariq, another valley based cartoonist who regularly contributes cartoons to the daily Kashmir Images, has similar views on how the alliance came to be loathed by the people of J&K over the years as they saw it as a mismatched, opportunistic marriage between two opposing parties to somehow grab the chair and stay in power. “The PDP-BJP alliance from day one relied on the policy of opportunism and didn’t care about the majority public opinion,” says Tariq. “In reality all that talk of marriage of north and south pole by Mufti Syeed was empty and a mirage to trick people into believing that the coalition will somehow work but it didn’t in the end.”
In one of his cartoons Tariq depicts the coalition government as an old, hunched person barely able to walk in mismatched footwear – a slipper in one feet and a shoe in another. Another cartoon shows the helpless chief minister in her office, unable to do anything as a BJP minister and an RSS activist writes the orders on her desk. In another cartoon, Mehbooba Mufti is shown holding a file of alliance papers in her hands. She is standing in front of an all powerful BJP minister who is sitting on his chair and has his feet spread out on her chair, occupying it, while ironically welcoming her: “Have a seat.”