28 January 2021 01:23 PM




Mufti Mohammad Sayeed

NEW DELHI: The Peoples Democratic Party is under pressure from the Congress and the National Conference to form a ‘secular’ government in Jammu and Kashmir and not ally with the Bharatiya Janata Party. Others represented in Parliament like the constituents coming together under the Samajwadi Janata Dal and the Left parties told The Citizen that they expected the PDP to shun the BJP and not become part of its “game plan” in the sensitive border state.

The CPI(M) has even issued a statement urging the PDP to keep the concerns of the voters in mind, and not enter into an alliance with the BJP.

The PDP, however, seems to be seriously exploring the formation of the government with the BJP under pressure now from Governor NN Vora and its own leader Muzaffar Baig who is playing a major role in the negotiations. The Governor has invited both the PDP and the BJP to discuss government formation. After an initial hunkering down the PDP seems to be emerging from introspection with a decided edge in favour of the BJP although the situation, as politicians say, is still open. And remains fluid with both sides wary and determined to protect their completely contrary constituencies.

Congress sources said that the party is more than willing to support the PDP but has received no feelers or response as yet. Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad mentioned the possibility in a recent interaction but it was clear that he had little at the moment to be positive about. The NC has made a verbal offer. PDPs Naeem Akhtar who has now been allowed by the party leadership to switch on his mobile, says a formal offer has still to be received.

The PDP has got over the first hurdle of remaining the single largest party in the state by getting at least three of the seven Independent legislators to support it. Earlier the BJP in what was a clear falsehood had claimed the support of all the Independent legislators. However, the three Independents, including CPI(M)’s Mohammad Yusuf Tarigami and Engineer Rashid, have supported a secular government and not necessarily the PDP itself.

The second ‘strategic’ move by the PDP was to issue five conditions which it claims are imperative. These include Article 370, revocation of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act,and acceptance of the PDP’s controversial self rule proposal that includes softening of the Line of Control. The other two concern full package for flood affected victims, and a six year term for Mufti Mohammad Sayeed as the Chief Minister without a rotational provision as sections of the BJP had been insisting on. Of course what is not said is also a ministerial berth for Muzaffar Beg at the centre.

Sources said that the language of ‘acceptance’ of some of these demands is being worked out by the BJP in a manner that does not alienate its constituency. However, there is worry amongst the BJP leaders that an alliance with the PDP could work adversely for it in Jammu. But negating this seems to be Amit Shah’s determination to form a government in the state, with sources maintaining that the five point demand by the PDP was more to address the Valley voters who are opposing the alliance, and was essentially a reiteration of “rhetoric.”

Despite the efforts by Beg and others, the PDP remains divided on this alliance. But as the sources pointed out it will also be divided on alliances with the NC and the Congress respectively “so that is hardly an issue.” Hard negotiations are on, with the opposition to the alliance being touted by the PDP negotiators to extract the extra pound of flesh from the BJP.

The fact that serious talks are on with the BJP and not with any other party is in itself an indication of the PDP leadership’s mindset. However, the BJPs efforts to turn the tables in its own favour have not succeeded and the PDP is reportedly negotiating from a position of strength to basically ensure a six year term for Mufti, money for the flood affected victims, ministries that it wants for itself and ministers in the Union Cabinet. The BJP in turn will remain silent on Article 370, at least for the moment, not raise AFSPA, and in all probability agree to a gag order to get the government in place.

After that, it is anybody’s guess.

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