The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was set to form the government in Jammu and Kashmir, registering its best performance in the state but fell shy of the majority mark, as election results threw up a hung assembly verdict on Tuesday.
No party came close to winning 44 seats that would give it a majority in the 87-member assembly, with the PDP getting 28 seats. The BJP finished a close second with 25 seats while the National Conference (NC) won 15 seats and the Congress got 12 seats.
“The mandate is not decisive or up to our expectations but we have emerged as the single largest party,” said PDP president Mehbooba Mufti.
Although the NC’s tally of 15 seats was 13 less than what it had won in 2008, critics said it did not fare as badly as expected. Outgoing chief minister Omar Abdullah lost from Sonawar, but won the Beerwah seat.
However, the big question remained of who the PDP would choose to form the government with.
Analysts said PDP leader Mufti Mohammed Sayeed, slated to be the chief minister, could go with the BJP. PDP spokesperson Nayeem Akhtar said “engagement with the BJP is inevitable”, fuelling speculation about a possible alliance.
“Going with the Congress will put off the BJP. Can the PDP be friendly with the Centre despite going with the Congress or will it want a government with BJP on board needs to be seen,” said a PDP insider.
Analysts said the party could team up with the BJP as the Congress failed to win with non-Muslim candidates in Jammu.
“I think we have to have Jammu aspirations onboard when we form the government,” said Akhtar.
The state BJP also said it was open to any possibility. “Any party that wants to come with us is welcome if they have Kashmir’s development in their heart,” BJP media adviser Altaf Thakur said. Party president Amit Shah also said the party was “open to all options”.
However, a section of the PDP felt it should go with the Congress, as an alliance with the BJP could mean compromising on ideological issues. Another factor that could tilt the balance in the Congress’ favour is the Kashmir Valley seemed to have voted to keep the BJP out. The party failed to open its account in the Valley.
The Congress said it was willing to consider being a part of the government, if the PDP chose them.
“We will consider if the PDP invites us,” said Congress leader Saifuddin Soz.
However, the biggest surprise of the day came from Omar Abdullah, who said his party was willing to consider giving support to the PDP, if Mufti Sayeed approached him.