BJP, PDP come closer to sealing alliance in Jammu and Kashmir

Jammu,Iftikhar Gilani: After the Delhi drubbing, the BJP has gone into fast track mode to cobble up an alliance with the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in Jammu and Kashmir. If all goes well, the state is likely to have a government before the budget session of Parliament, after nearly a two month wait.

Barring last-minute hiccups on contentious issues, the two parties have finalised a Common Minimum Programme (CMP) for governance. A senior BJP leader said there was agreement on 98 per cent of the CMP, while discussions were on over the remaining two per cent on wording of contentious issues like Article 370, granting special status to Jammu and Kashmir, timeline for revocation of Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and restarting the dialogue process on Kashmir issue with Pakistan and separatists.

The BJP and PDP have been on different sides of the aisle on these issues. BJP sources said there will be no compromise on “national interest” in drafting the CMP. PDP patron Mufti Mohammad Sayeed had recently termed them as non-negotiable points.

For the BJP, a government in Jammu and Kashmir, where the party has never been in power, would lift its spirits dampened by the debacle in Delhi. A BJP-PDP government could be in place before February 23, when the budget session is to begin. While sources said there was likely to be a BJP deputy chief minister (Nirmal Singh), as the PDP would have its chief minister (Mufti Mohammad Sayeed), a final shape on the question of whether the top post would be rotational would emerge only after meeting of the top brass of the two parties.

PDP has been insisting that Mufti should be given full six years term as chief minister to ensure stability and allow the party to implement its core healing touch policy to win hearts and minds of people particularly in the restive Kashmir valley.

Observers feel after the Delhi drubbing, PDP is negotiating hard to extract a maximum piece of pie from the BJP which is at the crossroads. PDP, sources said, is hopeful that by next week two parties would achieve a breakthrough.

Sources said there was a likelihood of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Sayeed meeting before an announcement is made. PDP has constituted a high-level team to hold negotiations with the BJP to finalize the CMP. Led by Muzaffar Hussain Baig, it includes party leaders Tariq Hameed Karra, Naeem Akther, Dr Haseeb Drabu, Syed Altaf Bukhari and Vikramaditya Singh.

From the BJP’s side, party general secretary Ram Madhav was involved in negotiating with the PDP. Senior leaders from both parties have held several rounds of meetings so far in and outside the state informally to deliberate on government formation.

PDP chief spokesman Naeem Akther said the PDP panel would finalize the CMP with the team of leaders from BJP. “The preliminary work has been completed on the CMP but it will be given final shape by the teams from both the parties,” he said.

“It will be a document for governing the state for six years. We want peace in the state as well as entire region,” said Akther. He said the PDP and BJP have also discussed transfer of NHPC’s power projects to the state. “Renegotiating the terms on which the projects were handed over to the NHPC also came up for discussion. The rehabilitation of the flood victims is also a priority,” Akhtar said.

“Once the CMP is finalized, the process for government formation will start,” he said. Both PDP and BJP have been holding negotiations on government formation for more than one and a half month after the assembly election results were declared on December 23.

The election to the 89-member (two members are nominated) assembly had thrown up a fractured verdict, with the PDP getting 28 seats, BJP 25, National Conference 15 seats and Congress 12 and independents and others seven. As parties unable to finalise an alliance till two weeks after the results, Governor’s rule had been imposed on January 9 in the state after National Conference leader Omar Abdullah asked to be relieved of his duties as caretaker chief minister.