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JEHANGIR ALI | 22 MARCH, 2016

Mehbooba Meets PM: Breakthrough? Perhaps.


SRINAGAR: In a sign of breakthrough on the political deadlock in Jammu and Kashmir, the PDP president Mehbooba Mufti described as “positive” her meeting with the Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the national capital Tuesday.

The breakthrough comes barely 48 hours after Mehbooba cancelled another scheduled meeting with Modi, reportedly after failing to get assurances from the BJP chief Amit Shah, whom she had met on Friday. Visibly upset, she returned to J&K in a huff on Saturday.

The most-awaited meeting took place at the Race Course residence of the Prime Minister on Tuesday morning and lasted for nearly 25 minutes, “It was a very positive meeting. The PDP legislators will meet to decide on the next course of action on Thursday. When you meet the PM, then the ways of sorting out problems become more clear,” Mehooba said after the meeting.

"We are seeing a stalemate for last two to three months over government formation in the state but today I am satisfied. I am very satisfied," she told reporters in the national capital.

Some legislators and party leaders have built pressure on the PDP chief to take call on government formation, arguing that the delay is hurting the party politically.

The PDP spokesperson and former education minister Naeem Akhtar told a local news gathering agency that the new government will be in place before March 29, “We are meeting on Thursday and hopefully government should be in place by March 29,” Naeem said.

In a last-ditch effort to save the boat of the coalition from meeting a tragic end, the interlocutors of the two parties held hectic deliberations on Sunday and Monday to schedule the meeting of Mehbooba with Modi.

The PDP president has been seeking “Confidence Building Measures” from the BJP-led Centre before continuing the “unpopular” alliance with the Hindu rightwing party, which ended suddenly with the demise of the chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed on January 7.

Mehbooba met Amit Shah in the national capital on Friday but the talks hit a roadblock and the PDP president returned to the state, reportedly after getting “no sense of assurances” during the meeting. The two parties issued contradictory statements on the breakdown with the BJP’s point-man on Kashmir, Ram Madhav, saying that the government can’t be formed “on conditions”.

The BJP however cleared its stand when the union finance minister, Arun Jaitley, said on Monday that the BJP is “committed to our agenda of governance”, “Mehbooba Mufti has to make up her mind," he said after the national executive meet of the Hindu rightwing party in New Delhi.

Sources in the PDP said no new conditions have been set on forming the government and the party is “looking forward” to continuing the alliance. Mehbooba herself has said in public rallies that her father’s decision to ally with the BJP is “carved in stone”.

Sources said the PDP president has conveyed to the BJP through the party interlocutors that she wants a free hand to run the state, besides the return of two key power projects to the state which, if granted by the Centre, will have a huge psychological impact on people in J&K.

Despite a record election in 2014 where the two parties, especially the BJP, indulged in polarizing the electorate, they entered into an alliance in March of 2015, promising to change the political and economic landscape of the state with a generous funding from the Centre.

However, the coalition government, headed by the late PDP patriarch, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, kicked off on a bad note when he sought to praise Pakistan and its security agencies for allowing peaceful elections in J&K, forcing PM Modi and union home minister Rajnath Singh to almost apologize for Sayeed’s remarks in the parliament.

The coalition remained mired in controversies as the BJP unleashed its proxy machinery to target the special status of the state and indulged in polarizing the state along communal lines, which reached a climax when a Kashmiri trucker was burnt by a mob in Udhampur.

Police says one of the suspects has known links to the BJP. The driver later succumbed at a Delhi hospital.

The delay in financial assistance for flood-hit victims, choking of space promised by the late CM for his ‘Battle of Ideas’ slogan and ‘overt and covert’ attempts to fiddle with the special status of the state became some of the defining moments of the alliance, which brought down the popularity of the two parties in their respective constituencies.

Meanwhile, the former J&K chief minister, Omar Abdullah, met the governor NN Vohra on Monday, urging him to announce fresh elections after the PDP and BJP “failed” to move ahead on government formation.

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