Jammu and Kashmir today appeared to be headed for a longer spell of political uncertainty with both allies PDP and BJP putting the onus of forming the next government on each other as their leaders met Governor N N Vohra who had stepped in to break the month-long impasse.
Vohra held consultations with PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti, who was accompanied by senior party colleague Muzaffar Baig, after which he met BJP leaders, including former Deputy Chief Minister Nirmal Singh, here to seek clarity on the issue of government formation.
While Mehbooba did not spell out what she told Vohra over government formation, Singh said BJP will take any step only after PDP elects its Legislature Party leader and notifies the Governor about it.
Emerging from the meeting, Mehbooba set certain conditions to ally BJP, including confidence building measures (CBMs) by the Centre for peace and development of Jammu and Kashmir.
Insisting that there are “no differences” with BJP, she said Jammu and Kashmir is different from other states and needs a “good atmosphere, space and a fillip” if a new government is to be formed.
Talking to reporters, she said her late father Mufti Sayeed, without bothering about his “political career”, had aligned with Prime Minister Narendra Modi with the hope that the Centre will bring out the state from the difficult situation it is in.
“Jammu and Kashmir is a different state, there are different challenges. In Jammu and Kashmir, there are several forces which need to be tackled. We need the Centre to be fully with us,” the PDP chief said.
Repeatedly asked about what she wants from the Centre, Mehbooba said there was a need for confidence building measures (CBMs), not only for Kashmir, but also for Jammu and Ladakh.
Refusing to specify the CBMs, she referred to the ‘Agenda of Alliance’, saying it had been firmed up at the highest level by the two parties last year.
Hailing her late father for his guts, she said she does not have such “experience”.
To a question, she said there are “no differences” with BJP but such measures should be taken by the Centre which will ensure that Sayeed’s absence is not felt.
After BJP delegation met the Governor, Nirmal Singh said, “We want that the alliance should continue. Modi sahab and Mufti sahab had a vision regarding Jammu and Kashmir. We complete that vision. But constitutional problem is that until PDP selects a leader and tell the Governor and moves further to form a government, after that only we will take some position constitutionally.”
PDP, with 27 MLAs in the 87-member Assembly and BJP with 25 legislators, ran a coalition government headed by Mufti Sayeed for 10 months before his demise on January 7.
Just before the meetings with the Governor, BJP leader Nirmal Singh met Mehbooba soon after she arrived here from Srinagar for the first time since the demise of her father and then Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed on January 7.
The BJP leader met the PDP chief after returning from Delhi where he along with two other colleagues held consultations with party chief Amit Shah on the way forward.
“It was a courtesy call. Nothing more than that,” he told reporters after meeting Mehbooba.
“We wish to continue with vision envisaged by (Narendra) Modi Ji and Mufti sahib on J&K,” Singh said.
Asked whether the PDP-BJP coalition would continue, he said, “yes”.
On when the government would be formed, he said “At present, I cannot give a time frame. But we hope very soon democratic government will be put in place here.”
Mehbooba, who spoke to media for the first time since her father’s death, said “there is nothing like trust deficit (between PDP and BJP).
“We have to form a new government in Jammu and Kashmir. Mufti Sahab is not there and to fill his gap, the Government of India has to take some (confidence building) measures for the people of Jammu and Kashmir for which the new government will get a space and fillip”.
Seeking full backing of the Modi government ahead of government formation, she said, “You have to fight a lot of forces and to fight these forces and to ensure control of situation of Jammu and Kashmir, it is important that the central government should fully stand behind us.”
Giving some details about the meeting with Vohra, she said, “the Governor had invited us. He wanted to know where has the process of government formation reached.”
Indicating her willingness to carry forward the alliance with BJP, she said, “before formation of new government, government of India, not BJP, should take such measures in Jammu and Kashmir so that a conducive atmosphere is created in Jammu and Kashmir and when this new government is formed, it gets a space and fillip.”
She added, “I have said this. I have discussed it with the Governor sahab also that this is what our party has to say.”
Contending that PDP had firmed up alliance with BJP in the “larger interest” of the people, she said, “You know that our Mufti sahab respected the mandate of last year and keeping in view the aspirations of the people of J&K, he took a big decision by rising above his personal interest and party interest.”
She said, “the alliance went well. Despite his (Mufti’s) towering statesmanship, he faced lot of difficulties in his month’s rule because.. it was understood that there are two parties of different point of views and there are going to be contradictions and it (coalition) went on.
“When Mufti sahib is no more with us. It is a big responsibility and in such a situation in Jammu and Kashmir, there is a need for a conducive environment for forming the government of BJP and PDP.”