PDP-BJP May Form Govt In Jammu And Kashmir By 22 February

13 February 2015
Livemint
Gyan Varma

New Delhi: Over the past few weeks, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have held a series of talks in New Delhi that are likely to result in the formation of a coalition government in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), which is currently under governor's rule. Several senior leaders from both parties say Prime Minister Narendra Modi of the BJP and PDP chief Mufti Mohammad Sayeed (popularly called the Mufti) will meet before 22 February, may be even as early as this weekend, to formalize the agreement and decide on the chief minister and deputy chief minister. The swearing-in of the new government is likely to take place on 22 February in Jammu, according to two BJP leaders from the state who did not want to be named. Some of those who spoke to Mint said the Mufti would be the chief minister for the entire six-year term of the government in the state. Others said the BJP could have its candidate as chief minister for three years. While that may be unclear, what is clear is that the two sides have worked out a common minimum programme on the basis of which they will work together. None of the BJP or PDP leaders who spoke to Mint wanted to be identified ahead of a formal announcement. Still, the deadline of 22 February appears logical-the budget session of Parliament is to start on 23 February. J&K has been under governor's rule since January after the assembly election in November-December resulted in a fractured mandate, with the PDP emerging as the single-largest party in the 87-member assembly with 28 seats, followed by the BJP with 25 seats. 'The alliance between BJP and PDP is like a marriage which nobody anticipated, which is why it has taken the two parties almost two months to reach a consensus. We expect the process to be completed before the budget session,' said a senior BJP leader who did not want to be named. 'There is near unanimity and development of the state will be the basic thrust of the government. We are in the final stages of preparing the common minimum programme,' said the person. Leaders of the two parties point out that the only two issues holding back an official announcement of the alliance are Article 370 of the Constitution, which gives special status to J&K, and the controversial Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA). The PDP is opposed to the BJP's stated aim of removing Article 370. PDP leaders are of the opinion that AFSPA should be removed, while BJP leaders believe that the Act is required to maintain law and order in the state. Both parties believe that the two issues should be worded in such a manner in the programme that it does not hurt the sentiments of their supporters. 'The BJP has an ideological position on the two issues and PDP also has very clear ideas about them; the two parties are trying to reach a common ground on the issues so that there is no problem and the government functioning doesn't get affected,' the BJP leader quoted above said. Political analysts say the partnership will be a difficult one because the BJP and PDP have different ideologies. 'This is a difficult alliance because the two parties have different fundamental tenets. This alliance will help the BJP consolidate its position in Jammu region because this is the first time that the BJP is in government, but the PDP could lose ground in Kashmir if it joins hands with the BJP,' said P.K. Datta, a political science professor at Delhi University.