SRINAGAR: With all eggs in its basket, the Mufti Mohammad Sayeed-led PDP seems to be looking for the best deal, and is in no hurry to enter into an alliance.
The results in Jammu and Kashmir threw up a hung Assembly, with the PDP emerging as the single-largest party with 28 seats and the BJP coming a close second with 25 seats, all from the Jammu region.
The PDP has three options available for government formation in the state.
The party can ally with the second largest party, the BJP, and easily form a government. But the two parties have varied ideologies, besides differences on key issues. The PDP, being a Valley-based party, favours strengthening of Article 370, repeal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) from the state and discussion on its self-rule proposals on softening borders and dual (India, Pakistan) currency in the state. The party is also against granting of citizenship to 1947 West Pakistan refugees settled in the state.
The BJP, on the other hand, has made known its stand on Article 370, and favours its abrogation. Besides, the party is also not in favour of lifting the AFSPA from the state, even from relatively peaceful areas, and is in favour of granting citizenship rights to 1947 West Pakistan refugees, who can vote in Parliament elections, but not in the state’s Assembly elections.
“The PDP, however, cannot afford to give the CM post, even on a rotation basis, to the BJP. If it does so, the party is bound to lose its grip in the Valley, from where it got 25 out of its 28 seats,” political observers said.
Senior PDP leader and MP Muzaffar Hussain Baig held talks with BJP vice-president and general secretary Ram Madhav in Srinagar on Thursday. “Talks between the two parties are on, but there has been no forward movement, as both parties are sticking to their agendas and stands on key issues, including Article 370 and the AFSPA,” sources said.
They said unless the meeting ground is found, the chances of a breakthrough on talks between the two parties are remote.
The second option open to the PDP is to align with the Congress and five independents to form a non-BJP government. The Congress has already offered unconditional support to the PDP in forming a non-BJP government in the state.
The PDP has 28 MLAs and the Congress 12 in the 87-member Assembly. The parties, who had formed a coalition government in 2002, fall short of 4 members to reach the magical figure of 44. However, they can cobble up the coalition by seeking the support of five independents. Of the five independents, three are from the Valley -- Hakeem Yaseen (MLA Khan Sahib), Mohammad Yousuf Tarigami (CPIM State Secretary and MLA Kulgam) and Engineer Sheikh Abdul Rashid (MLA Langate).
The three have already made it known that they would support any non-BJP government in the state, and have offered their support in forming a secular government, bringing the tally to 43. Two other independents are MLA Zanskar, Syed Muhammad Baqir Rizvi and MLA Udhampur, Pawan Gupta. Outgoing Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, who is also working president of the NC, had claimed that both Rizvi and Gupta were backed by his party and would stand by NC. However, both Rizvi and Gupta told Express that they would back a PDP-led regime. They have thrown their weight totally behind the PDP.
The PDP can join hands with arch rival the National Conference, which has 15 seats in the Assembly.
If the two regional parties join hands, they will fall short of one member, which can be managed with the support of five independent candidates. However, the PDP is not seriously looking into this option, saying, “We cannot align with the NC, which is responsible for all ills in the state”. Akhtar said the party is in the driver’s seat as it has got many options.
The party spokesman, however, said it was a complex issue. “In other states, parties would cobble up a government with their ideological enemies, but J&K can’t sustain such selfish politics.” “People need a government, and the PDP needs the ability to deliver on the developmental front. We need resources for carrying forward the development of the state,” he said.
“We don’t want to take a decision in a hurry,” said Akhtar, adding that the party was looking for the best option which could prove beneficial for the state and where the party won’t have to compromise too much on its agenda.