Mufti Mohammad Sayeed is set to return as chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir as his People’s Democratic Party (PDP) seemed to have almost closed a deal with the BJP to form the next government.
The new government, with a deputy CM from the national party, is likely to be formed after February 7, when Rajya Sabha elections will be held in the state.
The regional party, however, has decided not to be part of the NDA alliance and is also said to have received a guarantee from the BJP that it will enjoy a full tenure of six years, sources said.
The state has been under governor's rule since the assembly elections in December threw up a hung verdict. The PDP has 28 MLAs in the 87-member House while the BJP has 25.
“I don’t think we have to wait for long,” PDP chief spokesman Nayeem Akhtar said on Thursday while BJP leader and Union minister Jitendra Singh said, “The party leadership is discussing all issues and time will tell. We don't rush into things. Let the process take its time.”
The two parties have nominated two candidates each for the four Rajya Sabha seats that fall vacant next month. “Contesting RS elections with an understanding is itself an indication that positive dialogue is in process.
The success of the four candidates of the alliance, which depends on close coordination, will create a much more cordial atmosphere on government formation,” Akhtar added.
However, the alliance is unsure of one seat where the Congress, backed by the National Conference, has fielded former Union minister Ghulam Nabi Azad.
The PDP’s decision to restrict the alliance to the state more or less scotches talk of its president, Mehbooba Mufti, moving to the central cabinet. Sources said the Mufti, 79, is keen to have her fill his shoes at the end of his chief ministerial tenure.
“We have ideological differences. The alliance will be for the formation of the state government and for effective governance deliverance,” said a senior PDP leader who did not want to be named.
The Mufti had also said earlier that J&K was India’s only Muslim-majority state and this special character should be respected and acknowledged. Besides, his party has had reservations on the conversion issue.
For now, the two parties continue to fine-tune the common minimum programme — especially on the contentious issues of article 370, revocation of the Armed Forces Special Forces Act that the PDP wants done in a time-bound manner, and holding talks with separatists.
“The language of these issues in the common minimum programme should be such that while it addresses our concerns, it is not interpreted as the BJP toeing the PDP line. It’s a tricky issue and is taking a little long to settle,” said another PDP leader.