Srinagar, Iftikhar Gilani,Amita Shah:Politics is making strange bed fellows in Jammu and Kashmir, as contours of the next government in the state remained hazy. The BJP’s bid for a Hindu chief minister seems to have pushed the Kashmir-based party National Conference to offer unconditional support to its arch rival, PDP.
The PDP with 28 seats and NC with 15 would run short by just one seat for the required 44 in the 87-member assembly. A PDP-NC alliance would upset the BJP’s calculations of having a stake in government in Srinagar.
After its efforts to tie-up with NC came to a deadlock, the BJP had opened channels of negotiations with PDP. Sources told dna that PDP has set half a dozen tough conditions, including a full six year term for its chief minister, status quo on Article 370 and withdrawal of AFSPA in some areas. This would mean that Mufti Mohammad Sayeed should be chief minister for the entire term, a condition which is unlikely to be acceptable to the BJP, which has won 25 seats, three less than the PDP.
The PDP also wanted non-interference of Jammu ministers in Kashmir development, additional 9800 crore flood relief and a cabinet berth at the Centre. BJP leader Ram Madhav, who is in Srinagar, held talks with PDP’s number two leader Muzaffar Hussain Baig, sources said.
The BJP, in its attempts to have its own chief minister in Srinagar, was keen on an alliance with the National Conference which has 15 seats. However, there were strong reservations in the NC against accepting a deal where the BJP would have a Hindu chief minister.
The BJP’s confidence of being in government stemmed from its calculations that no combination would have the numbers without the saffron party. Claiming the support of five other MLAs, BJP sources said the party could claim more numbers than the PDP. The PDP and Congress, with just 12 seats, would be short of four seats for majority. The Congress has a disadvantage of not having a single Hindu MLA.
NC’s Devendra Rana said the party had offered unconditional support to the PDP, which was the single largest party. However, the ball was now in the PDP’s court. Sources said on Thursday, the NC leadership reiterated the feeler to the PDP through a “common acquaintance.” They said the party patron Mufti Muhammad Sayeed “appreciated the gesture” of Omar and “assured to hold consultations within”.
However, PDP sources said the party was yet to receive any formal letter offering support. PDP spokesperson Sameer Koul said that deliberations on government formation are going on with BJP and if the deal materializes, Sayeed will be the chief minister of the state for six years.
Amid uncertainty over government formation in a fractured mandate, the PDP is in the process of preparing an “agenda” which it would place before other political parties willing to work with it before forming any alliance. Informed sources said the PDP was “not in a hurry” to stake claim to the government formation.
The main focus of the agenda would be on resuming the dialogue process between New Delhi and Islamabad for moving ahead on larger Kashmir issue. In this regard, the PDP has tasked an internal committee to frame the agenda.