As the trend of the assembly results in the Jammu and Kashmir polls became clear, National Conference president Omar Abdullah promptly made clear his party’s keenness to form a coalition government with the Congress. “My grandfather (Sheikh Abdullah) had worked with Pandit Nehru and Indira Gandhi, my father with Rajiv Gandhi,” he said. “I’m open to working with the next generation of Gandhis.”
The Congress, however, has still not made up its mind to accept Omar’s proposal. Its other suitor, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) still has an outside chance.
While the NC and Congress with 28 and 17 seats respectively can form a government in the 87 member house on their own, a Congress-PDP tie up will need the support of independents, since the PDP has only 21 seats.
But PDP president Mehbooba Mufti underplayed the importance of getting the numbers. “What is needed is a common minimum programme and mutual accommodation,” she said. “We also need to look at which party has the leadership to stabilize the situation in Kashmir and ease tensions.”
In a sense the PDP has performed much better than the NC, raising its seat tally from 16 in the last election to 21.
The NC in contrast has obtained 28, exactly the same number it did in the 2002 polls.
Although it made a clean sweep of Srinagar seats, the NC could not win a single one in the Anantnag, Pulwama and Shopian districts of South Kashmir. It won just one seat in Kulgam. Even in the region, its tally has gone down from nine seats in 2002 to just six.
So even as Omar basked before television cameras, the NC offices across the state wore a deserted look. There were no celebrations.
The difference is that, in 2002, NC was the party in power, whose tally had markedly fallen from that in 1996. The results were seen as a vote against the NC. This time it does not have that handicap.