Congress chief Sonia Gandhi’s proposed visit to Srinagar on Sunday has set the grapevine abuzz in Jammu and Kashmir over a potential political re-alignment of forces even as the state was placed under governor’s rule.
A home ministry spokesperson said in Delhi on Saturday night that “governor’s rule has been imposed in the state of Jammu and Kashmir” after President Pranab Mukherjee cleared the recommendation of the governor NN Vohra.
A Raj Bhawan spokesperson said governor’s rule came into effect from January 8.
However, the talk throughout the day in the state -- technically without a government since the death of Mufti Mohammad Sayeed – swirled around Gandhi’s visit, described by both the Congress and PDP as “purely personal” and only to offer condolences to the family of the former chief minister.
What has added fuel to the speculations is Mufti’s daughter and heir apparent Mehbooba Mufti unwilling to take charge immediately and ruling BJP’s delay in officially confirming its support to her, despite saying it is ready to back her.
The PDP said on Friday that its leader Mehbooba was unwilling to take oath as the next chief minister even after the four-day period of mourning was over on Sunday.
Congress has made no formal announcement to offer support to Mehbooba but sources in the party say that “the ball is again in PDP’s court”.
On Friday, leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha and former state chief minister Ghulam Nabi Azad had visited Mufti’s grave in Bijbehara in south Kashmir fueling speculations that it was aimed at offering the “olive branch” to the PDP on government formation.
After the assembly polls last year threw up a hung house, the Congress had offered unconditional support to the PDP which later decided to go with the ideologically opposite BJP.
PDP sources said that during her visit Sonia Gandhi was likely to visit the family and meet Mehbooba at their Fairview residence in Srinagar’s Gupkar area.
Senior PDP spokesman Nayeem Akhtar on Saturday said that Mehbooba might need more time than the traditional four-day mourning period.
“She is not escaping her duties as the co-architect of the party but it’s a huge loss for her, so she might take more time,” he added.
Congress too downplayed the visit saying Mufti’s’s long association with the party is the only reason for Gandhi to be in Srinagar.
“Mufti Sahib has been with Congress for a long time. For 11 years he was the Congress president in the state. He did leave Congress and joined Janata Dal and later formed PDP but we again formed an alliance with PDP,” said Congress state president Ghulam Ahmad Mir.
BJP general secretary Ram Madhav, the architect of the alliance with the PDP, was in Srinagar on Friday to meet party legislators and decide on extending support to Mehbooba.
Deputy chief minister Nirmal Singh had a closed-door meeting on Saturday evening with top leadership of the party to discuss the developing situation.
According to sources, the meeting was attended by BJP state president Satpal Sharma, party general secretary Ashok Kaul and former state president Jugal Kishore Sharma.
“The BJP leaders discussed the emerging political situation. The leaders deliberated about the stand of the party on governance and also on how to carry forward the agenda-of-alliance. They decided to wait for any course of action till Sunday when the mourning period of former CM Mufti Sayeed ends,” the source added.
A meeting of the BJP legislators is also scheduled on Sunday evening.
Speaking to HT on Saturday, BJP state spokesman Sunil Sethi said “all decisions will be taken in a meeting of legislators on Sunday”.
PDP leaders, however, insisted that Mehbooba has “full support of the Prime Minister” and the alliance would form a government soon.
“There is no question of going with one party or the other. The alliance with BJP is rock solid,” said senior PDP leader Altaf Bhukari.