Jammu & Kashmir is heading for a coalition government. The seven-phase election in the state has thrown up a fractured verdict, in which no party has come close to a majority. This has set the stage for intense jockeying and political bargaining among the major political parties in the state.
The National Conference (NC), which has emerged as the single largest party (it had won or was leading in 28 of the 87 seats at the time of going to press), is expected to stake its claim to form the next government.
NC chief Omar Abdullah, who won from Ganderbal, a seat he had been defeated from in 2002, said: “The NC and the Congress are the only parties that do not play emotional politics in Kashmir. Together, we can do much good for our people.” It is being speculated that Omar may become chief minister in the event of an NC-Congress alliance.
He also ruled out the possibility of an alliance with either the BJP, which has won 11 seats — its best-ever showing in the state — or the PDP.
But the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), which won 21 seats – five more than its previous tally of 16 – is not throwing in the towel. Senior party leaders said they are in touch with the Congress high command to explore the possibility of forming an alliance. The two parties had run a coalition government in the state following the 2002 elections.
PDP president Mehbooba Mufti, who looked elated at her party’s improved showing, said: “The verdict is clearly a manifestation of voters’ appreciation of Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s three-year-rule.” But, she added, an alliance can be sealed only on the basis of a common minimum programme.
The Congress, with a tally of 17 seats, will clearly play the kingmaker. Besides, Congress-supported independents have also won two seats, increasing its clout further.
But a decision on whether to support the NC or the PDP will not be an easy one. The Congress Core Committee, which includes Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and party president Sonia Gandhi, met on Sunday evening to discuss the party’s strategy in the sensitive border state but deferred a decision. Sonia has called former chief minister Ghulam Nabi Azad and state unit chief Saifuddin Soz to Delhi for consultations on Monday.
Any coalition or group of parties that stake claim to form the government will need the support of at least 44 legislators in the house of 87.