Mehbooba Mufti Keeps BJP Guessing, Suspense Continues in Jammu and Kashmir

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Mehbooba Mufti Keeps BJP Guessing, Suspense Continues in Jammu and Kashmir

Mehbooba Mufti has told PDP lawmakers to head back to their constituencies and work to strengthen the party

New Delhi:  Mehbooba Mufti, expected to take over as Jammu and Kashmir's first woman chief minister, is keeping her coalition partner BJP on tenterhooks and is in no hurry to form the government, sources said.

Sources said the coalition likely to continue since Ms Mufti will not overturn one of the biggest decisions made by her father, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, at least not in the immediate aftermath of his death, but she is keen to reset the terms.

Ms Mufti, sources said, is angry and hurt over the way her party, the People's Democratic Party, was treated during the negotiations for the Central package and its delayed release. She is said to have conveyed her stand to the BJP. Government formation is likely to take at least 10 days or more.

Ms Mufti has told PDP lawmakers to head back to their constituencies and work to strengthen the party. While she has told the leaders about the need to continue the alliance with the BJP, she has not mentioned government formation.

Jammu and Kashmir has been placed under a brief spell of Governor's Rule since Friday -- a day after the death of Mr Sayeed. The state's constitution provides that the post of chief minister cannot be vacant but Ms Mufti had refused to take over till the mourning period was over.

Reports of the growing unease in the alliance come amid the speculations of a political realignment in the state. It was triggered by Ms Mufti's disinclination to take oath all of this week even though the state mourning for her father -- Mr Sayeed -- ends on Wednesday.

A 10-minute meeting between Ms Mufti and Congress president Sonia Gandhi yesterday fuelled the speculation. The Congress has said Ms Gandhi visited Mehbooba Mufti to offer condolences and stressed that they are close family friends.

The PDP and Congress have been allies in the state before. But after weeks of negotiation following assembly elections that threw up a fractured verdict, the PDP partnered last year with the Congress' chief rival and ideological opposite BJP, with Mr Sayeed heading the coalition government.

Numbers played an important part in bringing together the BJP and the PDP. The PDP won the most seats at 28, but was 16 short of a simple majority in the 87-member assembly. The BJP, with 25 seats, helped make up the gap.

The Congress has 12 seats in J&K and Omar Abdullah's National Conference has 15. There are four Independent MLAs and two from other parties.

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