PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti is giving some anxious moments to the BJP over government formation in Jammu and Kashmir, a state that slipped into a state of political uncertainty following the death of its chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed.
Currently mourning her father’s demise, Mehbooba is yet to communicate to the BJP her decision whether she will continue with the alliance that the senior Mufti stitched 10 months back to provide a stable government to the state. It was coming together of two unnatural allies and its fate has been a matter of speculation since then.
So where do things stand in J-K as of now?
The only thing that is clear in the present state of confusion is Mehbooba’s reluctance to be in a hurry to become the chief minister. That is raising suspicion within the BJP camp that there could be more to Mehbooba’s silence than what meets the eye.
On the face of it, she wants to continue with the alliance on her terms. BJP leaders suspect that she may be laying the grounds for a hard negotiation when the two sides actually sit together to discuss government formation. A swapping of portfolios held by the two sides in the previous government could be something that Mehbooba may be looking for.
Another reason, sources say, that is holding Mehbooba at the moment is the grudge that neither the Prime Minister nor BJP chief Amit Shah went to see her ailing father when he was admitted in AIIMS in New Delhi. Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, on the other hand, visited Mufti twice.
The PDP also believe that the BJP did not walk the talk on the package for Jammu and Kashmir, one of the key elements of the common minimum programme that the two sides had agreed to while forming the government.
For some leaders in the BJP, Mufti’s death also came with the opportunity to explore the possibility of having rotation chief minister for three years each, a proposition that did not cut much ice with the PDP under Mufti. In the previous regime, the BJP was also trying to get some additional portfolios but it could not see the light of the day.
BJP general secretary Ram Madhav, who was instrumental in bringing together the two parties in Kashmir, however, rejects the contention that they have set any condition for government formation.
“We would like the engagement to continue. We came together for the welfare of all three regions of Kashmir. The first steps towards the government formation exercise has to be taken by the PDP,” Madhav said in Delhi.
The BJP also tried to contain possible damage to the alliance by sending senior minister Nitin Gadkari to Kashmir on Sunday. He met Mehbooba and assured BJP support to her. But, Mehbooba has remained quiet. On his return, Gadkari briefed the Prime Minister about the deliberations.
As things stands, J-K governor is yet to hear from the two parties on government formation. The exercise to have a new government will start only when Mehbooba gives the governor the letter of support from the required number of MLAs. She does not have majority on her own and will have to get support either from the BJP or the Congress and other independent MLAs to reach the half way mark.
Until then, the state will continue to be placed under governor’s rule.