Jammu and Kashmir People's Conference chief Sajad Lone today challenged the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to appeal against the dissolution of the state assembly in court, claiming that he was more than willing to face a democratic test of numbers. "The PDP can go to court if it wants to, I am sure they will get relief. But we have the numbers to form the next government," he said at a press conference in Srinagar today.
Both Mr Lone and Mehbooba Mufti's PDP had laid claim to power in the state on Wednesday night, only to see Governor Satya Pal Malik dissolve the assembly soon afterwards. While the former claimed to have the support of the BJP and 18 other legislators, the PDP said it was backed by Farooq Abdullah's National Conference and the Congress.
Mr Lone said he had to wait out five months before making his claim to power because securing the support of the people is not an "overnight process". "But the time has now come to expose their lies," he said.
According to the politician, the alliance between the National Conference and PDP was grounded in falsehood. "They say they have come together to protect Article 35A. But it was the Congress -- the very party they have aligned with -- that amended the provision multiple times," he said, referring to the constitutional provision that empowers the state legislature to provide "permanent residents" with special rights and privileges.
Mr Lone, nevertheless, defended his party's decision to ally with the BJP. "If allying with them is a sin, the National Conference was the first to do it. Both Omar and Farooq were ministers in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee cabinet. As for Mehbooba Mufti, she was heading the government of this state along with the BJP until recently. She did not seem to have a problem with them then," he said, dubbing the rival alliance as an "opportunistic" gambit to prevent a third alternative from emerging in the state.
However, Mr Lone indicated that he was not above recruiting from other parties to get the numbers he needs. "I haven't drafted any anti-defection laws, and I haven't written the Constitution either. Why should I have a problem if somebody wants to join me; I certainly won't shut my doors. I cannot turn away anybody who wants to come over because his party does not inspire him," said Mr Lone, adding that he has accepted the Governor's decision despite not agreeing with it.
The manner in which Ms Mufti had staked claim to the government also came up for criticism at the press meet, which was also attended by PDP rebel Imran Hussain. "Read Mufti's letter to the governor, and you will see that it lacks protocol. This is not how you stake claim to form a government. The Governor has known them for two decades; they could have easily managed a meeting," said Mr Lone.
Earlier, the Governor had also criticised the PDP chief for staking her claim on Twitter. "Do governments get made on social media? I don't tweet or see my tweets," he said.
Mr Lone -- who had two lawmakers in the dissolved assembly -- claimed the support of 25 from the BJP, besides 18 others. This put him at 45, one more than the figure needed to achieve a majority in the Jammu and Kashmir assembly.