Modi and Mufti: An hour, a hug and a herculean pact

New Delhi,Amita Shah/Iftikhar Gilani(dna): As the Kashmir Valley was witnessing mild tremors, two ideologically dissonant political tectonic plates were meeting in Delhi, wrapping up an agreement to form a coalition government in Jammu and Kashmir, after two-month long protracted negotiations. Prime minister Narendra Modi and People’s Democratic Party patron Mufti Mohammad Sayeed sealed the deal with a hug for an alliance between their parties, altering the political landscape of the state.

Emerging from an hour long meeting at 7, Race Course Road, Sayeed did not forget to give credit to Pakistan for the free and fair elections in Jammu and Kashmir. Without naming Pakistan, he said “the elections in the state had gone off well… nobody from outside came to disturb it.”

Sayeed spelt out his expectations when he spoke of the need to engage with Pakistan and taking forward Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s initiative. “History has given us another chance.”

Sayeed, who will head a 50:50 cabinet in the state, said “we need to give a healing touch” to the state.

However, the Common Minimum Programme will be announced after the swearing-in on March one in Jammu, ending the two month long protracted negotiations which Sayeed admitted was a “war of nerves.”

The strange bed fellows–BJP and PDP– who were political rivals in the run-up to the assembly poll and do not see eye to eye on issues like Article 370 and AFSPA, will now together run the government with a 25-member cabinet. This is the first time that the BJP will be in government in the state, where the two regions- Kashmir and Jammu– often clash ideologically.

Keeping in mind the “mandate” of the people of the two regions of the state and development, both sides are optimistic. Minister of state in the prime minister’s office Jitendra Singh said that the joining of hands of the two parties to form the government should be seen as a “historic opportunity”. He added that any other alliance would have violated the mandate given by the people.

Both Sayeed and Singh said that the mandate was clearly in favour of PDP from Kashmir Valley and in favour of BJP from Jammu region.

Soon after the meeting with Modi, Sayeed sent a letter staking claim to form the next government in the state. This followed his unanimous election as the leader of the PDP legislature party that emerged as the single largest party in the recent election.

In his letter to the governor, Sayeed informed him that with the support of the BJP the PDP led coalition would enjoy a clear majority and was in a position to provide a stable government in the state in the wake of a split verdict.
The swearing-in ceremony will be held at General Zorawar Singh Auditorium of the Jammu University at 11:00 am on Sunday and will be attended by Modi.

“Our agenda for alliance talks of development, economic growth and so on, besides political issues. Please wait till March 1, everything will be clear then,” Mehbooba said while talking to reporters in New Delhi.