Jammu and Kashmir: PDP seeks assurance from prospective partners on issues like Article 370, revocation of AFSPA

SRINAGAR(PTI): Hinting that it is ready to do business with BJP, the PDP, which has emerged as the single largest party in the Assembly elections, on Saturday sought assurance from its prospective partners over contentious issues like safeguarding Article 370 and revocation of AFSPA.

“All options are still open. No decision has been taken yet on formation of government in the state with any other party,” PDP spokesperson Naeem Akhter told PTI here. He said the leadership of PDP, which has won 28 of the 87 seats in the Assembly, was discussing all its options for government formation, hinting at an alliance with the BJP. “There are certain issues which form our core agenda and require an assurance that these will be accepted by our potential alliance partner, whichever party it might be,” he said.

Akhter said his party’s stand on safeguarding Article 370, which guarantees special status to Jammu and Kashmir within the Indian union, was non-negotiable. He also said that the party was committed to revocation of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act from the state, besides initiating a political process for resolution of Kashmir issue. The PDP and the second largest party BJP, which has won 25 seats, all in Jammu, have been invited by Governor N N Vohra for separate discussions over government formation by January 1.

Asked if his party would consider the demand for rotational chief ministership from any future alliance partner, the PDP spokesman said the negotiations have not reached that stage with any of the parties. He said Congress has also given a proposal for government formation to the PDP which is under the consideration by the party. On the National Conference’s offer of unconditional support to PDP for government formation, Akhter said his party has received no such communication so far from its arch rival. “As and when such an offer is received we will surely discuss it and decide the future course of action,” he said.

National Conference working president Omar Abdullah had on Friday said that his party had only conveyed a “verbal offer” to the PDP through an intermediary. The PDP leadership is caught in a ‘catch 22’ situation with some influential leaders within the party strongly opposing an alliance with the BJP on the grounds that such a partnership can reverse the gains made by the party during recent times.

A senior PDP leader, on the condition of anonymity, said an alliance with the BJP would be “suicidal” for the regional party. “While good governance and development is a universal yearning among the people, people in a sensitive place like Kashmir also keenly watch the friends you keep. One of the reasons for decline of National Conference was its hob-nobbing with whichever party was in power at the Centre,” he said.

National Conference, which has 15 seats and can play a key role in government formation, withdrew from the race following open expression of dissent by some senior party leaders after reports suggested that the regional party had entered into parleys with BJP. The results for the state assembly elections on December 23 threw up a hung verdict with no party getting clear majority.

Congress, with 12 MLAs, is neither in a position to form the government or help PDP or National Conference to cross the 44 seat mark in the 87-member state assembly. Congress spokesman Salman Nizami HAD yesterday said the party was in touch with PDP and six other Independents to prevent BJP from coming to power in the state.

Meanwhile, PDP President Mehbooba Mufti said only Akhter is authorised to articulate the party’s views in the media on policy matters. “The statements of the Chief Spokesman (Akhter) should be taken as the stated position of the party on various policy issues.

“In the prevailing hazy political scenario, unqualified comments in the media only add to the confusion and fuel wild speculation,” Mehbooba said in a statement. She said as a responsible political party, the PDP will take not only its cadres but the people of the State on board before arriving on any decision regarding the future course of action.

“I want to assure my party cadres and the people that whatever decision is to be taken will be taken in the larger interest of the State and its people,” the PDP president said. She said the mandate given by the people to the PDP to represent the political aspirations and economic interests of all the regions and sub-regions of the state would be represented and valued in adequate measure.