What NC-Congress-PDP’s Move Towards Govt Formation Means For J&K

The three parties are trying to block the attempts of the People’s Conference, led by Sajjad Lone.

Updated21 Nov 2018, 03:09 PM IST
3 min read

The Congress and the National Conference have joined hands with the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) to try and form a new state government in Jammu and Kashmir. The two parties' support was formally vouchsafed to the PDP on Monday, according to well-placed party sources.

If a new government is formed, the NC will support it without participating in the ministry.

In fact, former CM Omar Abdullah has been somewhat reluctant about the tie-up with the PDP, which is his party's main rival in the state. The Congress is apparently much more willing and is likely to get a deputy CM from Jammu if such a government is formed.

The three parties are trying to block the attempts of the People’s Conference, led by Sajjad Lone, to form a new government with the support of the BJP and breakaway factions of these parties.

Moves towards that end have been evident since just a few days after the BJP withdrew support to bring down the PDP-led government in July.

Five MLAs from the PDP had even addressed a press conference together. The state was ruled by a PDP-BJP coalition government, led by the PDP's founder, Mufti Muhammad Syed, from March 2015 to the beginning of 2016.

After his death, the coalition was formed again under the leadership of his daughter, Mehbooba Mufti, who's also the party president.

The state has been under governor's rule since July this year. Governor Satya Pal Malik has publicly declared that he's not going to oversee any horse-trading or install a government by unfair means.

If, indeed, support by the Congress and the NC has formally been given to the PDP, accusations of horse-trading would fly thick and fast if a government is sought to be formed with the help of factions of these parties.

According to party insiders, Mehbooba Mufti told the parties which offered support that she didn’t want to be CM again. She apparently offered it to the NC president, Farooq Abdullah. But it is said that he, too, turned it down.

‘Good News in the Offing’

Party sources said that Mehbooba Mufti might agree to a new government being led by Altaf Bukhari, the businessman-politician who has held the education and finance portfolios.

Alternatively, she would want to back Abdul Rehman Veeri, a stalwart of the party from their hometown, Bijbehara. He, too, has held important portfolios.

Bukhari stated on Wednesday afternoon that "good news" was in the offing, and indicated that it was up to the governor to allow a new government to take office or to dissolve the Assembly.

The Centre is apparently toying with the idea of dissolving the Assembly and precipitating new elections. However, the Centre would want to have elections for a new Assembly a little after the Lok Sabha elections, which are due in April-May 2019.

Security forces would be stretched if elections in the strife-torn state were held simultaneously with Lok Sabha polls.

There was talk of Altaf Bukhari becoming chief minister with the backing of the BJP when Mehbooba Mufti was reluctant to take over following her father's death in 2016.

Well-informed sources say that he had the backing of BJP President Amit Shah at the time.

Bukhari stated on Wednesday that the three parties were getting together to protect the special status of the state. There has been a strong public sentiment in favour of keeping Article 35A of the Constitution of India intact.

The Article is facing a stiff challenge in the Supreme Court. One saw a poster in South Kashmir on Tuesday, "Take my life but not Article 35A".

The PDP has lost credibility to a large extent during the four years since the last Assembly elections. Many of the party's MLAs from north Kashmir have turned dissidents openly. In the south, where it has its most significance base, the party has lost public support.

A new stint in government could allow it to try and regain ground. However, it would have to curb the corruption and nepotism for which the government became known over the last few years.

The PDP has 28 MLAs in the 87-member house, the BJP has 25, the NC has 15 while the Congress has 12.

(The writer is a Kashmir-based author and journalist. He can be reached at@david_devadas. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)

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Published: 21 Nov 2018, 02:33 PM IST

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