SRINAGAR: With former chief minister and People's Democratic Party (PDP) president Mehbooba Mufti facing open rebellion in the party, the disgruntled party legislators are likely to join hands to form a "block" within the party and this group would be key to BJP in forming a government in Jammu and Kashmir with a face from Kashmir as Chief Minister.
So far three sitting MLAs including two influential Shia legislators Abid Ansari and his nephew and former minister Imran Ansari have openly revolted against Mehbooba. The trio, which also includes first time MLA from Tangmarg Mohammad Abbas Wani, have accused Mehbooba of turning the PDP into Family Democratic Party by allotting key positions in the party to family members.
Sources in the PDP said at least 8-12 PDP MLAs including former ministers are disgruntled and not happy with Mehbooba's working and assigning key positions in the party to her relatives. Mehbooba's maternal uncle is PDP vice president and her cinematographer brother Tassaduq Mufti, a novice in politics, has been given the greater say in party. Sources said though only three MLAs have so far come out in open against Mehbooba, more may join them in coming days. "Many legislators are reluctant to speak against her but they too may come forward to challenge her writ".
According to PDP insiders, the number of disgruntled legislators may be more than 10 as none is happy with party leadership and feel that their chances of re-election may be hit if they continue to be in PDP. There is anger against Mehbooba in Kashmir for using brute force against protestors during 2016 unrest. The party has already lost its base in south Kashmir, which was epicentre of the unrest. With fissures in the party, it would be difficult for Mehbooba to keep her flock of 28 MLAs intact in view of the changed situation following fall of PDP-BJP government last month.
In 87-member J&K Assembly, PDP is the single largest party with 28 seats followed by BJP with 25 seats, National Conference 15, Congress 12, Peoples Conference (PC) 2, and rest are independents. If the BJP is to form the government, it needs the support of 44 MLAs. The party has 25 MLAs, its ally PC has two and it may also have secured the support of two independent legislators, taking its tally to 29. In that scenario, saffron party is still short of 15 members to again form government in J&K which is under Governor's rule since June 20, a day after BJP withdrew support to Mehbooba-led PDP-BJP coalition government. The activities on government formation gained momentum last week after BJP general secretary Ram Madhav and State BJP leaders called on Sajjad Lone in Srinagar and discussed possibility of forming a government.
The PDP's disgruntled legislators hold key to any government formation in the State. "They may form a 'forward block' within the party. However, since there is stringent anti-defection law in the state, the group may merge with Sajjad Lone's PC, an ally of BJP or some other party to escape disqualification," opine political observers. The disgruntled MLAs, they said, may help BJP cobble numbers to form a coalition government. And the biggest advantage for the group is that J&K Assembly Speaker is a BJP MLA. The Speaker's role could be vital in government formation.
According to political observers, if the BJP manages to reach the magical number of 44, then a face from Kashmir may be appointed as Chief Minister of BJP-led government. They said the combinations and permutations process would be over till Amarnath yatra is over and the next government may be in place after the two-month long pilgrimage, which began on June 28.
State BJP General Secretary Ashok Koul told The New Indian Express that they are keenly watching the developments. "If the possibility on government formation arises, we will think over it," he said. Ex-minister and Democratic Party Nationalist (DPN) president Ghulam Hassan Mir said all MLAs would favour a delay in Assembly elections and would want to continue the term of six years.
Mir, a founding member of PDP, said this urge of theirs to continue, can lead to the possibility of cobbling up numbers in forming the government. "The politics is number game and number game is essential for government formation," he said. Mir felt that PDP would be at the receiving end of the horse trading as party leadership has lost acceptability among people and control over its legislators.