No sign of govt formation in J& K

Wednesday 31st December 2014 05:12 EST

There were no signs of either PDP, the largest group, or BJP, the close runner-up, getting the requisite numbers to stake claim to forming a new government in Jammu & Kashmir as the deadline set by governor NN Vohra for discussions fast approached.

A team of PDP, which has 28 MLAs in a House of 87, led by its president Mehbooba Mufti will meet Vohra in Jammu on Wednesday and discuss with him government formation while the BJP is expected to give its proposal on January 1.

Ahead of the meeting, PDP spokesman Naeem Akhthar said that the party was not ready with any solution "as yet" to end the political stalemate and all options were still on the table for it. "We are not ready with any solution as yet. It's a very difficult situation and we are trying our best to convert this into an opportunity for the welfare of the state, its economic development and ending political uncertainty about it," he said.

In the middle of continuing political uncertainty, rumours were agog in the Kashmir valley that the 15-member legislature party of the National Conference (NC) has passed a resolution supporting PDP, which was denied by NC general secretary Ali Mohammed Sagar.

"We have verbally stated to PDP that in case they want our support, they should talk to our leadership," he said. PDP is holding intra-party discussions on possible alliances which the party can enter to form the next government in the state.

Meanwhile, PDP patron Mufti Mohammed Sayeed was holding consultations with his MLAs and workers. "Sayeed continued consultations with the party rank and file," Akhtar said.

He said the PDP patron has been meeting party leaders, newly-elected legislators, senior workers and some of the members of civil society in a bid to shape the party's response to the challenge thrown up by the fractured verdict.

PDP split on alliance with BJP

The PDP is now split wide open over whether to seek BJP support to form a government. Highly placed sources in the PDP have confirmed that at least half a dozen of the 28 PDP MLAs have rejected the idea of a tie up with the BJP, saying it would go against their mandate. While senior leaders and a former deputy CM Muzaffar Hussein Baig has openly supported a tie up, Mehbooba Mufti and newly elected Rajpora MLA Haseeb Drabu, widely tipped to be the state's finance minister, have opposed the alliance.

The PDP leadership has been meeting the MLAs individually before it takes a final call ahead of its meeting with the governor on January 1. "If we go with the BJP, it will be political suicide for us," one of the MLAs said. "It is better to have governor's rule if required." However, the group which wants a tie up feels that this is the best chance for the PDP to redefine the politics of the state. "Six years is a long time in politics and if Mufti Mohd Sayeed as CM delivers, we will be able to strengthen ourselves in both Srinagar and Delhi." The fact that the BJP is in power at the Centre is an obvious attraction since central funds for flood relief will be the immediate challenge. A Modi-Mufti tie up is seen by the pro-alliance group as a partnership that can outlast the equation the Abdullahs had with the Congress leadership.

But the mathematical reality is being confronted with a political reality. A section of the PDP is worried that the tie-up will lead to backlash in the valley. "The high voter turnout was because the voters didn't want the BJP to bloom in the valley. If we tie up with the BJP today, the National Conference will benefit tomorrow." The anti-alliance group emphasises that saffron outfits are carrying out "ghar wapsi" drives across India.

Mehbooba Mufti had made strengthening article 370, soft borders and revocation of AFSPA key elements of her campaign. During an interview on the campaign trail, she said these were non- negotiable issues. The BJP knows that it's voter in Jammu doesn't want a compromise on these issues either. "It's a tough situation for both sides to evolve a common minimum agenda," admits a BJP leader, "whatever we gain in one region, we will lose in another.”

Among top leaders there are strong misgivings in the top leadership of the PDP about entering an alliance with a party perceived as a Hindu majoritarian force in the valley. Highly placed sources in the PDP said the situation was one of compulsion versus choice. The so called "secular grand alliance" being pushed by Ghulam Nabi Azad or a PDP alliance with Congress and NC is increasingly being rejected as an option, because it is seen as bringing in through the back door parties which have lost the peoples' mandate.

However, pro-alliance PDP leaders are willing to look on the positive aspects of Modi's leadership. They say that one of the positive features of PM Narendra Modi is that he doesn't listen to the IB when it comes to Kashmir and does not have a conspiratorial mindset on Kashmir. Modi is seen as someone who might demilitarise Delhi's mindset on Kashmir and actually push decision making on an institutional civil service level. "Modi has a healthy disregard for the constant IB conspiratorial suspicions about Kashmir, which is a major change and one that the PDP appreciates," said a highly placed source within the party.

However the PDP believes it will have to "de-fang" the BJP while in alliance. This will mean a very strong terms of engagement between the two parties. The party believes it is helping the BJP save Kashmir and save India, because if the BJP tries to cobble its own government or impose a Hindu CM, the state may see a return to militancy. The de-fanging of the BJP will rest on two factors: 1. If the BJP talks of Article 370, PDP will walk out of the government and second that AFSPA must go and there has to be a review of the larger role of the army and a heightening of civil society's role in Kashmir society.

The PDP leadership says it is fully aware of the political risk it is taking, but blames the Omar Abdullah government for ceding Jammu to the Congress since it was the Congress's defeat that has made the BJP's big win in Jammu possible. BjP gained at the expense of the Congress because it was the Omar Abdullah government which effectively trifurcated the state between Kashmir, Jammu and Ladakh. "Today the Congress is a defeated force, how can we go with them? Do they have the legitimacy to help us in dealing with Pakistan or with the Hurriyat? Congress killed 1 120,000 Muslims through militancy and it was the Congress which single-handedly destroyed Article 370," said the highly placed PDP source.


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