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Mehbooba Mufti tries to keep PDP together as buzz grows about new political group

Mehbooba Mufti opened channels of communications with her assembly members on Saturday, the first time she did so after the government fell on June 19.

india Updated: Jul 10, 2018 08:53 IST
Mir Ehsan
Mir Ehsan
Hindustan Times, Srinagar
Mehbooba Mufti,J-K politics,Sajjad Lone
Peoples Democratic Party president Mehbooba Mufti during a party meeting in Jammu.(PTI Photo)

The buzz about a new political grouping staking claim to form the government in the state of Jammu and Kashmir refuses to die.

Former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister and the PDP president Mehbooba Mufti is making all efforts to keep her flock of 28 legislators together in the backdrop of a rebellion which seems to be orchestrated by former minister and the legislator from Pattan, Imran Reza Ansari.

Ansari has spoken out against the party leadership and claims to have support of many legislators within the party. He also claims to be in touch with former minister and chairman of the Peoples Conference, Sajjad Lone, an ally of the BJP. Lone himself is in Delhi exploring the possibility of helping form the next government in the state.

On Saturday, Mufti opened channels of communications with her assembly members , the first time she did so after the government fell on June 19; around 14 to 15 legislators have since met with her at her Gupkar Fairview residence. The legislators have assured their support to the party. Mufti has also opened channels of communication with legislators who have extended support to Ansari. The former J&K chief minister plans to meet with these legislators one-on-one, said a PDP minister close to her, requesting anonymity.

According to a former minister and senior PDP leader who didn't want to be named, Mufti will also host a party meeting with all legislators to send out the signal that the party is intact and efforts to break it will not fructify. J&K has a strong anti-defection law, which was passed in 2005, that makes it difficult for legislators to defect without being disqualified.

At this point in time, analysts say there are several scenarios, with the most likely one being a continuation of Governor’s Rule. The J&K legislative assembly has 87 members and a grouping needs 44 to form the government. The PDP has 28 members, the BJP, 25, the National Conference, 15, the Congress, 12, the Peoples Conference led by Sajjad Lone, 2, and there are five independent legislators.

There are several possible scenarios. In one, the BJP, a breakaway group of PDP, Lone’s party, and a few of the independents could cross the magic number, although for this, the speaker of the house plays ball.

In another, the National Conference, Congress, and the PDP could come together, although the chances are remote.

In a third, the Congress could partner with the PDP and the independents to muster the required numbers. And in a fourth, the Congress could partner a rebel group from the PDP, the National Congress, and the independents, although the speaker could well choose to enforce the anti-defection law then. The speaker of the house is a BJP legislator. Finally, the BJP could partner with Lone and the National Conference, although the chances of this too are remote.

Prof Noor Mohammad Baba, former head of the department of political science, Kashmir Unive- rsity, said if the BJP is planning to form government in J&K, they will need to look into all possible consequences. Baba said: “Even if they try to install a Hindu chief minister, it could further alienate the people in Kashmir.’’ He said even if the NC, PDP and Congress come together, in the long run, “one party has to perish”.

First Published: Jul 10, 2018 08:53 IST