Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed courted controversy within hours of taking oath today, saying the Hurriyat, militant outfits and "people from across the border" - construed as an oblique reference to Pakistan -- allowed conducive atmosphere for assembly polls.
"I want to say on record and I have told this to the Prime Minister, that we must credit the Hurriyat, Pakistan and militant outfits for the conduct of assembly elections in the state," Mr Sayeed said at a media conference after the ceremony, which was attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Flanked by Deputy Chief Minister Nirmal Singh of BJP and cabinet minister Haseeb Drabu, Mr Sayeed said, "God forbid if they (militants) had done something. It would not have been possible to have smooth conduct of the elections."
The BJP refused to be drawn into the controversy. "The peaceful polls in Jammu and Kashmir was conducted with the support of the Election Commission and other security agencies, besides those who believe in the Indian Constitution," said BJP national secretary Shrikant Sharma.
Deputy Chief Minister Nirmal Singh told NDTV that there is no need to "read too much into the remark".
It drew a sharp reaction from National Conference chief Omar Abdullah, who, in a series of tweets, demanded that BJP, partner in the ruling coalition, clarify its stand.
"Pakistan, Huriyaat & Militants ALLOWED peaceful conduct of elections" says Mufti Syed. I guess we should be grateful for their generosity.- Omar Abdullah (@abdullah_omar) March 1, 2015
Dear @BJP4India please explain roll of security forces & polling staff considering your CM just said "Pakistan allowed elections in J&K".- Omar Abdullah (@abdullah_omar) March 1, 2015
Mr Sayeed also voiced hope that the induction of separatist-turned-mainstream-politician Sajjad Gani Lone in the cabinet would open avenues for others to follow suit. Kashmir, he also added, was the only Muslim majority state which rejected Jinnah's theory and acceded to India.
"In Kashmir complete autonomy and in Jammu 'Ek Pradhan, Ek Vidhan, Ek Nishan'. This has happened. We want to connect Kashmiri People with rest of the country... History has given us a chance."