Why Jammu and Kashmir Still Doesn't Have a Government 20 Days Later

Published: January 14, 2015 00:31 IST
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(Nazir Masoodi is NDTV's Srinagar Bureau Chief)

On Tuesday, former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah bowled a political googly after he formally sent a letter to Jammu and Kashmir Governor NN Vohra, offering the National Conference's support to the People's Democratic Party on government formation in the state. The letter has taken the PDP by surprise and its spokesman hit out at the National Conference for being power hungry. The PDP knows that more than the support offer, Omar's letter is an attempt to scuttle its leader Mufti Mohammad Sayeed's chances to forge an alliance with the BJP.

The PDP and the BJP have emerged as the two largest parties in a deeply fractured mandate in the state but because of serious ideological differences and local political pressures, the PDP has not been able  to stitch up an alliance with the BJP causing inordinate delay in government formation. The imposition of Governor rule's last week was an anti-climax after the huge voter turnout and the enthusiasm shown by the people of the state in the electoral process

So far the PDP and the BJP have made more attempts to address their respective ideological constituencies than any serious effort to forge an alliance. And Omar Abdullah's decision not to continue as a caretaker Chief Minister advanced Governor's Rule by a few days.

First we were given to believe that the worsening situation along the International Border in Jammu was the reason behind the delay in government formation. The party tried to convey that veteran politician and PDP patron Mufti Muhammad Sayeed would not like his swearing-in ceremony as Chief Minister of the state to take place at a time when Indian and Pakistani armies are firing at each other and thousands of people are being displaced because of the border skirmishes. 

But as a semblance of normalcy was restored on the border, the BJP seemed to shift all its energies to the Delhi elections. One of the reasons being seen for the BJP's reluctance to form the government in Jammu and Kashmir is that it fears it could have a bearing on its prospects in Delhi, where elections will be held next month.

In Srinagar, people say Delhi matters. New Delhi has always played a key role in government formation in Jammu and Kashmir; usually that has meant the central government. This time it is the Delhi elections.

The BJP fought the 2014 J&K elections with a mission to install a saffron government in the state. But the fractured mandate has forced it play second fiddle to the PDP, which has won 28 seats, three more than the BJP, in the 87 member Assembly.

The BJP's big dilemma: how voters in Delhi would react to it partnering with a party with the kind of agenda the PDP has. 

As conditions for a partnership, the PDP wants resumption of talks with Pakistan, talks with Kashmiri separatists, revocation of the controversial AFSPA (Armed Forces Special Powers Act), strengthening of Article 370 and installing Mufti Muhammad Sayeed as Chief Minister for the full six-year term of the assembly.

On many of those issues, the BJP's stated position is the exact opposite.

The question being asked is whether the BJP can afford to enter into alliance with such conditions even after the Delhi elections?

The party is eager to be part of the government for the first time in the country's only Muslim majority state after winning its best tally of 25 seats ever, but a marriage with the PDP will not be a smooth affair as both parties are ideologically poles apart.

The only silver lining to such an alliance is that the BJP-led Central government, the PDP hopes, will be generous in funding the state, devastated by floods in September last year.

If PDP leaders are to be believed then the BJP has accepted all these demands. Be that as it may, it will certainly not be a one sided affair. The BJP wants to go ahead with granting citizenship to refugees from West Pakistan in J&K, the process of which has been already started.

The standing committee of parliament has recommended approving voting rights and permanent resident status for them and the union home ministry has cleared a rehabilitation plan and asked the state government to clear the decks for this evoking a strong reaction from the National Conference and separatists.

Over the years regional parties, particularly the National Conference, have sought that West Pakistani refugees should be settled anywhere in India but in Jammu and Kashmir, as it could affect the demography of the state.

However, refugees who have come from Pakistan Occupied Kashmir have been given all rights in J&K.

In its vision document for J&K the BJP has promised five seats in the Assembly for the refugees. Will the PDP accept such a proposal?
Both parties know that any hasty compromise on their core issues may cost them dearly. The PDP is already facing heat from various groups, including separatists, for showing an inclination to partner with the BJP.

The separatists, who are otherwise soft on the PDP, have warned him of a "decisive resistance" if he forges an alliance with the BJP.

The PDP has also been offered support by the Congress and independents. So the Mufti has to decide whether he will ally with the Congress and annoy the BJP at the Centre and in Jammu, where the latter has swept most seats, or take support from the NC and give J&K a Kashmir-centric government or enter into an alliance with the BJP with all its consequences.

If he fails to pick any option then there will be governor's rule for next six months in the state.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this blog are the personal opinions of the author. NDTV is not responsible for the accuracy, completeness, suitability, or validity of any information on this blog. All information is provided on an as-is basis. The information, facts or opinions appearing on the blog  do not reflect the views of NDTV and NDTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.

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