A cross vote by an independent legislator during the legislative council elections in Jammu and Kashmir on Monday has driven a wedge between the ruling coalition partners, the PDP and the BJP.
The PDP was banking on the support of Zanskar legislator Syed Mohammad Baqir Rizvi for the victory of its candidate Abdul Qayoom Dar on one of the two legislative council seats for which polling was held April 17. However, Rizvi dumped the PDP at the last minute and voted for BJP’s Vikram Randhawa. His vote resulted in a tie between the PDP and the BJP, which later won the seat in a draw of lots.
In the 87-member House, the PDP has 28 legislators and the BJP 25. Both the parties also have one nominated member each with voting rights. Both Dar and Randhawa bagged 29 votes each. Besides Rizvi, the BJP candidate was also supported by two legislators of the Peoples Conference, headed by Sajjad Ghani Lone.
Upset over the development, the PDP leadership has decided to take up the issue with the BJP at the highest level. “It is very unfortunate. We have taken a serious note of it and we will take up the matter with the BJP leadership,” PDP spokesperson Mehboob Beg told HT.
At Tuesday’s cabinet meeting, CM Mehbooba Mufti expressed her annoyance over the “betrayal” by the BJP. Sources said she said the BJP did not adhere to the “coalition dharma” that resulted in a loss of a key seat for the PDP.
However, the BJP for its part maintained it cannot be blamed if the PDP failed to muster support from the independents.
Soon after the results were declared, the PDP-led government sacked Rizvi from the post of vice-chairman of Jammu and Kashmir Building and Other Construction Workers Welfare Board and withdrew the status of Minister of State (MoS) given to him last year.
On the other hand, a combined opposition ensured the victory of Congress candidate Thakur Balbir Singh who bagged 31 votes.
What seems like a squabble over a legislative council seat is also an indication of internal rumblings in the ruling coalition that have resurfaced.
Sources in the BJP and the PDP admit that the precarious ties are being tested once again by the ongoing turmoil in the Valley. The renewed and intensified incidents of violence have put a strain on the coalition that came to power in 2015. “After the now-on-now-off situation that the alliance found itself in soon after PDP founder and former chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s death, the two sides had eased into a working relationship. But the current round of violence and the anger on the streets has again brought to fore the differences that both sides are trying to overcome,” a senior BJP leader said.
The disagreement over how to overcome people’s disenchantment with the establishment is a case in point.
The BJP wants the state government to opt for “drastic” solutions, pointing out how it has not shied away from meeting fiscal demands; but the PDP has been insinuating that statements from the BJP leadership and the army have stoked raw nerves. “Kashmiri youth are upset by generalisation. The youth feels alienated. PM Narendra Modi asking them to choose between terrorism and tourism and army chief General Bipin Rawat’s statement about stone-pelters have ruffled feathers,” said a PDP leader.
The PDP also has a grouse that New Delhi is not doing enough to meet regional aspirations, a charge denied by the BJP leadership. Does the fresh round of bickering mean the alliance is again at the brink of collapsing? Leaders of both sides are unanimous that it is unlikely. They admit there is no option for the PDP, but to continue the alliance as its position in the state is not so good .
‘Growing clamour for Governor’s rule ’
Senior Congress leader P Chidambaram said on Saturday that there was a growing clamour for Governor’s rule in Jammu and Kashmir. “Glad more people have realised PDP-BJP government is a disaster,” Chidambaram said in his tweet.
“The honourable course for... CM of J&K (Mehbooba Mufti) is to snap the coalition with BJP and make peace with the people,” he added. “If that means a spell of Governor’s rule, so be it,” Chidambaram said.
(With inputs from Ravi K Khajuria)