Political uncertainty in Jammu and Kashmir is set to continue until the weekend when the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) will hold an internal meeting to discuss government formation while ally BJP waits for her to break the deadlock.
PDP president Mehbooba Mufti would meet party leaders, including legislators, at her Fairview home to decide on continuing the alliance with the BJP.
The venue for Sunday’s meeting, three weeks after the death of her father, chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, assumes significance too. The family vacated the chief minister’s official residence in winter capital Jammu last week, in a move seen to mount pressure on the BJP to give in to the PDP’s so-called demands for changes in the terms of agreement.
The BJP was baffled with the delay but remained unwilling to give Mehbooba the advantage after receiving feelers that she wanted to be “reassured” about several tricky issues, such as abrogation of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act or Afspa from two districts, talks with Kashmiri separatists and withdrawal of troops occupying non-military property.
Besides, she wanted Centre-owned projects, including two NHPC power grids, to be transferred to the state government.
The BJP was foxed with the PDP’s list as Mehbooba has yet to get herself elected as leader of her legislature party, a necessary step to become chief minister.
“We are not considering any Plan B. We expect things to become clear after the Sunday meeting between Mehbooba and her legislators,” a party leader said.
The party has been reluctant so far to expand the ambit of the alliance agenda it had with Sayeed.
“The common minimum programme for governance is for six years. We could complete just eight months before Sayeed died. You need to have a government in place to execute the CMP. We don’t know why she is causing this delay,” a senior BJP functionary in Delhi said.
PDP sources confirmed that Mehbooba would meet party workers on Sunday and then take a call.
She was keen that the BJP acceded to her demands before the parties shared power again in the state. “This time, Mehboobaji is herself discussing government formation with the BJP. Nobody from the party knows the details,” said a senior PDP leader, not wishing to be named.
PDP sources said she has asked party workers to start a membership drive, hinting at the eventuality of fresh elections if the alliance failed. This could be a possibility because many PDP leaders, including Srinagar MP Tariq Hamid Karra, were not happy with her father forging an alliance with the BJP.
Nirmal Singh, a state BJP leader who was deputy chief minister in Sayeed’s cabinet, refused to speculate on the PDP’s reason(s) for the delay.
“The PDP is yet to give any indication of government formation. We are yet to hear from them. They have not spoken to us on this. The call about establishing a democratically elected government has to be taken by the PDP as it is the largest party or this has to be done by the state’s governor,” he said.