Jammu and Kashmir is likely to have a new government by March-end, an outcome of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chief Mehbooba Mufti’s positive and satisfactory meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday.
The politically-sensitive state has been under governor’s rule since chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s death on January 7 as the PDP and alliance partner BJP were dithering on new terms of engagement to form a government.
“It was a very positive and good meeting,” the 56-year-old Mehbooba, tipped to be the state’s first woman chief minister, said after her 30-minute one-to-one with Modi at his 7, Race Course Road home.
“When you meet the Prime Minister, naturally the solution to problems faced by the people is clearer,” she said, reviving the reconciliation process three days after talks between the two ideologically-opposite parties broke down.
Sources said if everything falls in line, a new government will be sworn in by March-end.
The optimism stems from Mehbooba’s comments after meeting Modi. “We are seeing a stalemate for the past two to three months over government formation but today I am satisfied … I am very satisfied,” he said.
Mehbooba has called a meeting of the PDP legislature party in Srinagar on Thursday to elect a new leader, a first step towards government formation.
Party sources said four-time legislator and family loyalist Abdul Rehman Bhat, popularly known as Veeri, will be elected legislature party leader because Mehbooba is a Lok Sabha MP for Anantnag and not a member of either Houses of the state assembly.
Veeri, who represents her native constituency Bijbehara, may propose Mehbooba’s name for the chief minister’s post. She has to get elected to one of the Houses within six months.
Sayeed’s death rocked the coalition after 10 months in power as Mehbooba remained reluctant to take up the reins, apparently upset that her father died “a sad man” because of the BJP-led Centre’s unfulfilled promises.
She sought assurances from the NDA government on time-bound implementation of the agenda for alliance and transfer of central power projects to the state. But the BJP was in no mood to concede more ground, which showed as her talks with ally party president Amit Shah failed to break the impasse last week.
Mehbooba’s meeting with Modi was a final push, though she dropped hints on March 7 in north Kashmir’s Kupwara about her commitment to her father’s wish to form a government with the BJP. His move enabled the BJP to be in power for the first time in the Muslim-majority state.
Mehbooba is also pushed to shed her reluctance to form a government by the PDP’s declining popularity in the Kashmir Valley, demonstrated by the thin attendance at her father’s funeral, apparently because of Sayeed’s alliance with a Hindu nationalist party.
The PDP chief knows she can ill-afford a snap poll now because of the public mood and her own party legislators. Rumblings of discontent within the party were heard as some legislators felt the rival National Conference (NC) has gained ground because of the PDP’s alliance with the BJP.
NC leader and former chief minister Omar Abdullah rubbed it in, saying the PDP was heading for a split. “She rushed to Delhi in a last-ditch effort to save her party,” he said on Monday.
The Congress has an unconditional offer of friendship but Mehbboba did not consider the option as the stability factor and the numbers game in the assembly weighed heavily.