Shawls Before, Why the Secrecy Now, Asks Omar Abdullah
SRINAGAR: The breakdown in talks over government formation has divided the Peoples Democratic Party even as the union finance minister, Arun Jaitley, Sunday made a fresh announcement that the BJP is committed to governance agenda for development of Jammu and Kashmir.
The PDP president Mehbooba Mufti is likely to call a meeting of party leaders this week to clear the air over the last-minute collapse of talks with the right wing party which blamed its former coalition partner of setting "conditions" for government formation.
The talks have become a bit of a joke in Jammu and Kashmir with former chief minister Omar Abdullah questioning the "secrecy" around the meeting between the PDP president and Amit Shah, "Why the secrecy this time around? Last time she met with flowers and shawls being exchanged," Omar wrote on Twitter.
“Mehboobaji is likely to convene a meeting with party leaders in the next few days to clear the air about her meeting with (BJP president) Amit Shah. The meeting has been delayed because some leaders are stuck in Jammu due to closure of (Srinagar-Jammu) highway,” a senior PDP leader said.
Sources in the PDP said the party is divided on allying with the BJP in absence of assurance from the Centre. The key sticking point in negotiations between the two parties is the return of two NHPC-controlled power projects to the state which, if conceded by the Centre, will have a big psychological impact in J&K.
While one group of leaders want the party chief to go ahead and form the government, hopeful that the Centre will deliver on its commitments, others are warning that the coalition will meet the fate of PDP-BJP 1 coalition, headed by late Mufti Mohammed Sayeed, which was described as "unpopular" by none other than Mehbooba.
"It is for the party president to decide on the issue (of government formation). She has been chosen by the party leaders and legislators to take final call. She is aware of the humiliation her father had to go through due to delay in release of flood relief by the Centre. She will not like to repeat those mistakes," the PDP leader said.
Jaitley Sunday extended an olive branch to the PDP, saying that the BJP is fully committed to the agenda of governance in Jammu and Kashmir, “We stand fully committed as far as the agenda of governance (signed with the Peoples Democratic Party last year). We want to work for the development of Jammu and Kashmir but there are issues concerning national security," he said, speaking during the discussions held at the party's national executive meet in the national capital.
The PDP maintains that there are no new demands made by it but it only wanted assurances on a timeframe for implementation of the “Agenda of Alliance” agreed between the two parties last year. Sources said the issues raised by Mehbooba during her meeting with key BJP leaders are part of the alliance agenda which was finalised by PDP patron Mufti Mohammad Sayeed with the national party.
(File Photograph: Omar Abdullah wonders why the Mehbooba-Shah meeting was kept a secret, when earlier shawls were exchanged.)