The BJP could go slow on its negotiations with the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) on government formation in Jammu and Kashmir because it is worried about the impact a tie-up would have on its electoral fortunes in Delhi.
“The BJP has indicated it was willing to put Article 370 on the backburner, but it is now wary of giving the Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) a handle to beat it with at the prestigious Delhi election,” a senior PDP leader said, underscoring the BJP’s fear that a compromise formula would give its rivals the leeway at next month’s assembly poll in the Capital.
A BJP leader admitted as much, saying it can’t afford to let the Opposition go to town about the party “compromising its core agenda”.
This means, Jammu and Kashmir could see a spell of governor’s rule because any agreement between the two parties before the January 19 deadline for forming a new government in the state remains a slim possibility.
The two have been negotiating over a power-sharing agreement following a hung verdict in the recent assembly poll, but deep ideological differences on issues such as Article 370, phased withdrawal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act from the state and a dialogue with Pakistan have continued to be thorns in the talks.
They were not even close to finalising the common minimum programme that would form the basis of a power-sharing agreement, said leaders of both parties.
According to the negotiators, the BJP was open to withdrawing the AFSPA from the Jammu region to take care of the PDP’s sensitivities over the issue. But then, as one leader put it, “we also have to keep our Jammu base in mind”.
The BJP won all its 25 seats from Jammu and failed to open its account in the Valley.
The PDP too has internal issues to deal with. “At least two of our MLAs are threatening to quit if the party ties up with the BJP,” a party leader said.
“Some are scared they will be targeted and killed if there is an alliance between the two ideologically opposed parties.”
The PDP has been putting pressure on the BJP to open a dialogue process with Pakistan. But the BJP has tried to wiggle out of the talks trap by calling it a prerogative of the Central government, one of the leaders said.