PDP and BJP to form Government in J & K next week

NEW DELHI:  Climaxing two months of hard bargaining, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) are on the cusp of finalizing a deal on Government formation in Jammu & Kashmir.

Sources in the BJP gave strong indications that Government formation would be announced in the next few days after PDP strongman Mufti Mohammed Sayeed calls on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on Monday or any day after that. PDP sources, however, sounded guarded about early announcement of a deal which envisages Mr. Sayeeed as the Chief Minister.  

The two parties held  nearly 15 rounds of talks since the elections in December delivered a hung verdict with the PDP emerging as the single largest party in the 87-member J & K Assembly and BJP coming a close second but failing to open its account in Kashmir V alley.

The talks were held up for the past two weeks over the PDP’s demand for partial revocation of the Armed Forces’ Special Powers Act (AFSPA). Both the parties had agreed for partial revocation of the Act that gives the Army sweeping powers to make arrests without warrants.  They felt it could be revoked from the peaceful areas of the State. J & K has been witness to violence by militants for nearly a quarter century now.

BJP cautious about Article 370

The BJP had been treading cautiously AFSPA as it feels that any softening on this score may give a handle to separatist elements. An agreement was, therefore, stuck over the modalities, the timeline and whether amendments to AFSPA should be described as ‘withdrawal’ or `revocation’. Though the details were not available, it is apparent that the two parties have sorted out differences over this issue.

They also seem to have bridged differences over the critical question of Article 370 which gives special status to Kashmir.  As the BJP was dead opposed to any compromise over its stand in favour of revoking Art 370, the PDP had been demanding that it should agree to maintaining the current status.

 Two other issues that were holding up an agreement was the question of PDP’s demand for initiating talks with Pakistan and its hard stand on rehabilitation of refugees from West Pakistan. Obviously, some back channel negotiations between the two parties helped sort out these issues.

Meanwhile, National Conference leader Omar Abdullah made an interesting comment about the deal through a tweet. “The PDP-BJP tie up was a done deal ages ago, all this was just Mufti Sayeed’s grandstanding as a tough guy to undo the damage in the valley. Only an idiot would have concluded that Mufti Sayeed’s drama over the last few days meant PDP-BJP were actually having difficulty joining up.”

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