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SEEMA MUSTAFA | 28 JANUARY, 2015

PDP And BJP Move Close, But Are They Close Enough to Form The Government in J&K?

What government have they voted for?


NEW DELHI: When shall we three meeting again?
In thunder, lightning, or in rain?
When the hurly burly’s done,
When the battle’s lost and won

The witches in Shakespeare’s Macbeth could have been speaking for the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Peoples Democratic Party that have waited for the ‘hurly burly’ of the elections, and the strong passions these had aroused to die down before sitting down to take up the task of government formation again.

The battle is ‘lost and won’ for both, as PDPs Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, a consummate politician of yore, demonstrated his skills and pushed the ambitious BJP to a corner from where it could not extricate itself without conceding several points. The Kashmir voters strong and vocal opposition to forming a government with the BJP, was used by the PDP leader as the reason why he could not move ahead without losing the Valley at the time, and the talks broke with Mufti on the top.

Mufti has been clear from the very beginning that he can form the government only with the BJP in Jammu and Kashmir. And that given the results with the BJP securing 25 seats in Jammu this alone could be a stable long term option. This is the primary reason why he did not entertain the Congress or the National Conference offers for an alliance, and ruled out by his silence talks of a ‘grand alliance.’ A senior Congress leader told The Citizen that the Congress was quite willing to lend a hand in government formation but the PDP had not responded in concrete terms. The same has been the case with the National Conference, where there is also a major trust deficit between the Abdullahs and the Muftis.

Serious talks were carried out only with the BJP from the first day, with Mufti not opposed to a coalition government provided the terms favoured him and his party. The BJP that was trying to push the PDP into subjugation came up against a hard wall, with Mufti letting it be known that he was quite willing to give up power unless his major demands were conceded by the BJP.

The battle though won was lost, temporarily it now seems, and Governors rule imposed. Talks were resumed almost immediately between the BJP and the PDP, both determined to form a government in the state. This determination continues, and the sticking point despite all the other so called principled issues being raised, has really revolved around the Chief Ministers chair. Both parties started by claiming the post for themselves in what constituted an impasse. The BJP sought to break this by insisting on a rotational three year term for each of the two parties. The PDP dug in its heels and insisted that it would not budge from a six year term demand with Mufti in the chair. Reports, again unconfirmed, now suggest that the BJP has agreed to this as well. However, issues about portfolios remain with the BJP keen on getting the home department under its control. The PDP was reluctant when last heard of, and clearly there are some obstacles here that need to be sorted out.

The PDP and BJP have also been working on a common minimum program that has presented its own share of problems. Mufti reportedly wants some clarity here on the BJP’s position on Article 370 and also the pursuit of peace with Pakistan. In his view,according to sources, the Kashmiri youth is fed up of violence and extremism and wants good governance to bring them the opportunities they have lacked. He is of the view that a coalition with the BJP could ensure that through heightened cooperation with the centre, provided controversial issues such as the abrogation of Article 370 are dropped.

Sources claimed that many of the issues have been resolved and a new government should be in place in Jammu and Kashmir “soon.” One had heard this ten days ago, and is hearing the same now. The media has been speculating on this on an almost daily basis but until the deed is done, it is not done for all practical purposes. And as all those in Jammu and Kashmir know, better than others, a pebble in this sensitive border state has the dramatic potential to turn into a boulder in the obstacle course with little warning.

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