In what was probably the first instance of its kind in Indian politics, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chief Mehmooba Mufti was forced to tweet out her party's claim to form the government in Jammu and Kashmir on Wednesday night after the fax machine at the Jammu and Kashmir Raj Bhavan reportedly "refused" to accept her request.
Ms Mufti's letter to Governor Satya Pal Malik stated that the PDP has 29 seats in the state assembly, and with the support of the National Conference and Congress, it would go well past its majority mark of 44. "Have been trying to send this letter to Rajbhavan. Strangely the fax is not received. Tried to contact the Governor on phone. Not available. Hope you see it @jandkgovernor," she tweeted along with an image of the document.
Her tweet was quickly followed by one from her political foe-turned-ally, National Conference leader Omar Abdullah, who decried the technological limitations of Mr Malik's office. "J&K Raj Bhavan needs a new fax machine urgently," he posted, tongue firmly in cheek.
On the other end, political rival Sajad Lone also professed his inability to send a letter claiming the support of the BJP and 18 other MLAs for forming the next government in the state. He, however, used a different Internet application to get his message across to the Governor. "We have sent a letter to His Excellency the Governor staking our claim to form the government. Fax not working. We have whatsapped it to the PA of his excellency @jandkgovernor," he tweeted.
However, even if the governor's fax and phones were not at their best, the same could not be said of his administrative reflexes. Minutes after Ms Mufti and Mr Lone had staked claim to forming the next government, he dissolved the state assembly.
The National Conference-PDP combine, quite understandably, smelled a fish. "The JKNC has been pressing for assembly dissolution for 5 months now. It can't be a coincidence that within minutes of Mehbooba Mufti Sahiba letter staking claim, the order to dissolve the assembly suddenly appears," tweeted Mr Abdullah soon after the Raj Bhavan issued the order.
Ms Mufti, on the other hand, expressed surprise over the gadget Mr Malik had used to convey his decision to dissolve the state assembly. "In today's age of technology, it is very strange that the fax machine at the Governor's residence didn't receive our fax but swiftly issued one regarding the assembly dissolution," she tweeted, noting the "jitters" that the very idea of a grand coalition had given the BJP.
Nevertheless, the former Chief Minister believed it was only proper to thank the National Conference and the Congress for supporting her party's claim. "In my 26-year-old career as a politician, I thought I had seen it all! But like they say never say never! I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to @OmarAbdullah and @Ambikasoni4 ji for helping us achieve the seemingly impossible," she tweeted.
Mr Abdullah found that a post worthy of a retweet. "And I never thought I'd be retweeting anything you said while agreeing with you. Politics truly is a strange world. Good luck for the battle ahead. Once again the wisdom of the people will prevail," he posted.
The BJP, on the other hand, was busy tweeting in defence of the governor's decision. "Keeping the security scenario of J&K in mind, can it afford horse-trading and instability? J&K needs a firm administration to deal with terrorism and not a combination of terror-friendly parties," the party posted from its Twitter handle. "The best option in such a scenario is to go in for a fresh election at the earliest. This assembly cannot produce a stable government."
The PDP and the National Conference had come together with the express motive of preventing the dilution of Article 35A of the Constitution, which empowers the state legislature to provide "permanent residents" with special rights and privileges. The six-month central rule in the troubled state was expected to end in December.
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