Hung in Kashmir-Who would form govt.?

  • PDP emerges no 1. BJP a close second
  • Congress, NC offer support to PDP
  • PDP-BJP govt on cards
  • Mufti Mohammad Sayeed to become CM
  • BJP clear winner in Jarkhand, to form govt. soon

(K.Kaushik)

New Delhi, December 23: The assembly elections in Bihar and Jammu & Kashmir have proved the pollsters a little off the mark. But the trend they predicted has been closer to truth. The results announced today proved once again that the Congress party has beaten convincingly by the BJP in all aspects. The BJP which was expected to make the mark in Bihar did make it successfully and is about to form its government there. In J & K, however, the BJP failed in its Mission-44. But it emerged as a close second to the PDP.

There were no surprises from Jarkhand where the BJP had won 42 out of 81 seats in the assembly and its ally MVM of Babulal Marandi had bagged 8 seats. Marandi has offered to merge his party with the BJP. The BJP parliamentary party which is meeting on Wednesday in Delhi would decide who would become chief minister of Jarkhand. It is going to be a smooth affair. The JMM which is demitting office will be the main opposition and the Congress has ended up a poor fourth, after the JVM. The only point of interest in Jarkhand is whether the BJP would make a Tribal leader or a non-Tribal leader the CM.

The government making activity is in full swing in Jammu & Kashmir where the game of options in wide open. The BJP has not been able to accomplish its Mission-44 but it has made the largest gains ever in the most important and sensitive state. It did very well in Jammu. It did not do well in Laddakh. It miserably failed to open an account in Kashmir valley where it was not expected to do well anyway. But it has lost deposit in 33 out of the 34 seats in contested in the valley. The vote share it got was a mere 1.18 percent. It means the saffron party has been totally rejected by the people in the valley. That said, it has to be conceded that the ruling party at the Centre did well in the overall context of J & K. It is only second to the PDP headed by Mehbooba Mufti.  While the PDP got 28 seats, the BJP got 25, the NC 15, the Congress 12 and others got 7 in the 87-member assembly.

What are the options in J & K? The people have obviously voted for the PDP or the BJP to form the government. Since the PDP is having a slight edge, it can confidently attempt to form a government. One of the options before the PDP is forming a government in partnership with the BJP. The BJP has conducted a very effective election campaign in which it did not spare any political party or family. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s refrain was that the people of J & K have to put an end to family rule, referring to the families of Abdullas and Muftis. But what was said before elections hardly matters post-elections. Both the parties can very well form a coalition government which would be stable commanding almost two-thirds majority. But the question of Article 370 and other BJP’s pet policies would become contentious. There has to be a Common Minimum Programme aimed at the development of the troubled state and the BJP agenda has to be set aside. The BJP was never serious about doing away with Article 370. Modi, the prime campaigner, never mentioned the article and he did not give a remote hint at removing the article from the statute. His focus was only on development of the state. If that spirit were to be continued, the PDP can safely enter into an alliance with the BJP. It will have a friendly government in Delhi which would be useful for the development of the valley and other parts of the state. But as Congress leader and former Union Minister Mani Shankar Iyar quipped in a TV debate, can oil and water mix? Even if a coalition government is formed and Modi inducts a couple of PDP MPs into his cabinet, would the arrangement last? Is it going to do any good for a regional party to have an alliance with a national party? The experience of Omar Abdullah, the outgoing chief minister and leader of National Conference, shows that the regional party would lose ground by aligning with a national party. That was the reason why the Congress and the National Conference broke the alliance just before the assembly polls. The NC strongly feels that the Congress vote did not transfer to NC in parliamentary elections. They in fact went to the PDP, alleged Omar. But the PDP-BJP coalition remains the best option to prevent the gulf between two district regions in the state from widening further. They were vertically polarized in these election with the Hindus in Jammu voting for the BJP and the Muslims in the valley rejecting the BJP and voting for the PDP and the NC.

The second option before the PDP is to take the support of the Congress party which was there on the offer without any strings. Former Union Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad had offered Congress party’s unconditional support to the PDP. The Congress and the PDP formed government earlier and the Congress is a known devil for the PDP leaders. The Congress is flexible, it is prepared to participate in the government or support PDP government from outside. It is something the PDP leadership has to decide.

The third option for the PDP is to give a ring to Omar Abdullah who is waiting for a call. He told a TV channel that he has been planning for 15 days as to how to react to a request for support. If Mehabooba Mufti telephones, Omar is prepared to offer her his support.  He told media persons that he would not give a call to anyone, but would answer any call that comes to him. If the two regional parties combine their forces, the national parties could be kept at bay. But it is very difficult to work together for the regional outfits. Both the parties have their political base in the valley. The government to be formed by the PDP-NC combine would represent Valley more than Jammu or Laddakh. The PDP-BJP government, on the other hand, would represent both the major regions in the state, the PDP standing for Kashmir and BJP for Jammu.

The BJP also has two options. The first option is to join the government headed by PDP and take the deputy chief minister’s post. The second option is to form the government on its own by taking the support of NC. Prime Minister Modi had some kind words for Omar Abdullah in his election campaign and Ram Madhav, BJP General Secretary who was involved in J & K elections, has been having second-track negotiations with various parties including the NC. Ram Madhav, a Telugu to play an important role in J & K elections, told Rajdeep Sardesai of ‘Headlines Today’ that Mission-44 would be deemed successful when the BJP formed the government in J & K.

So, the BJP is not averse to supporting the government headed by the PDP by drawing a Commom Minimum Progragramme. It is also inclined to form its own government by taking the support of the NC. In either of the scenarios, the BJP is going to share power for the first time in J & K. Which means, it is going to put its agenda that includes abrogation of Article 370 on the attic for the time being.

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