SRINAGAR: With Jammu and Kashmir elections throwing up a hung assembly and National Conference ruling out alliance with BJP, Peoples Democratic Party patron Mufti Mohammad Sayeed may head the next government as his party is exploring option of forming government either with the support of saffron party or Congress.
PDP emerged as single largest party in the State by winning 28 seats. BJP swept Jammu region by winning 25 seats while NC and Congress got 15 and 12 seats respectively. Sajjad Lone’s Peoples Conference won two seats while CPI(M) leader Mohammad Yousuf Tarigami retained his Kulgam seat in South Kashmir. Besides, four independent candidates also emerged as winners.
“Results were not up to our expectations," PDP president Mehbooba Mufti said.
Her party has emerged as single largest party and has the option to either align with its former ally Congress or Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s BJP.
NC’s working president and Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has already ruled out alliance with BJP. “We cannot forge an alliance with the saffron party,” he said.
Both BJP and Congress have expressed their willingness to support PDP but it is for Mufti and his party leaders to decide with whom to align with.
If the party ties up with Congress, it would need support of at least 4 independent candidates and in case it decides to go with BJP, it would need any other support.
Sources said PDP and BJP have opened communication lines to discuss government formation in the State. “The party leaders are in touch and have discussed the issue”.
According to political observers, Mufti is acceptable to people of both regions of the State. “BJP will find it hard to find a person of Mufti’s caliber, which can be acceptable to both regions”.
They said if PDP forges alliance with BJP, PDP will press for 6-year tenure of Mufti Mohammad Sayed as CM of the State and putting Article 370 to backburner.
Both these issues may not go well with the BJP workers in the Jammu, where from party got all is seats. “They will try to exert pressure on party high command to go for rotational basis and have CM from Jammu also”.
Political observers said Mufti can claim high ground if he forges alliance with BJP. “He can claim that he foiled BJP’s bid to foist Hindu as J&K CM”
“This vote in the State is against NC and Congress. Both NC and Congress have been rejected by the people,” PDP chief spokesman Nayeem Akhtar told reporters.
He said BJP and PDP have emerged as strong forces in two regions of the State.
“There are ideological differences between two parties. It is catch 22 situation for us,” Akhter said when asked whether his party will ally with BJP.
He said the party is not hurry in forming government.
“Pragmatism, interest of State, developmental needs and national interests will also have to be taken into consideration”.
PDP president Mehbooba Mufti also kept option of alliance with BJP open saying the people have voted against NC and Congress.
“PDP is exploring all possibilities and will do its best for the welfare of the people. PDP would not cobble up any number just for the sake of arithmetic. Our priority is to make a governance where we can deliver,” she said.
BJP MP and Incharge J&K Affairs, Avinash Khanna told Express that they have kept all options open.
Without ruling out an option of supporting PDP, he said the party has emerged as second largest party in the State and will play key role in government formation.
Khanna said the party will analyse the pros and cons of forming alliance with any regional party before deciding in its favour.
“Our parliamentary board will meet tomorrow morning and every possibility will be explored to provide stable government to people of J&K,” he said adding communication lines have opened.
Earlier, BJP president Amit Shah had said all three options were open for the party. “The option of forming a BJP government, option of supporting somebody, and option of joining some government were all open”.
Senior Congress leader and former J&K Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad said the party is ready for alliance with PDP. “We allied with PDP and NC in past”.
He said the party won’t go with the saffron party, BJP.
“PDP has the mature leadership and they have a fair understanding of good and bad for the state of Jammu and Kashmir. PDP must take the final call over the subtle issue while keeping in view its larger interests,” Azad said.