BJP, PDP Close To Jammu And Kashmir Coalition

21 February 2015

Srinagar: Decks have been cleared for the first ever coalition government of the People's Democratic Party (PDP) and Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) in the strife-torn Jammu and Kashmir. After initial hiccups, People's Democratic Party (PDP) and BJP narrowed down their differences and arrived at consensus on key issues that will form the basis of their governance for six years in the Jammu and Kashmir. 'Talks are on. They have entered the next stage and most of the areas are covered as consensus has been arrived. There are certain areas which remain incomplete. Both sides are working on it', Naeem Akthar, chief spokesman of PDP, told dna. The two parties, ideologically poles apart, are debating on finding common ground on contentious issues like the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and Article 370 and PDP's insistence on talks with Pakistan and a separatist leadership. Sources close to both parties confirmed to dna that the two parties had moved closer to an agreement on contentious issues. The Common Minimum Programme (CMP) is likely to say that the present constitutional status of the state be upheld without mentioning Article 370. On AFSPA, a review committee may assure setting up a joint committee of the Centre and state immediately after government formation, to assess the ground situation and prepare a timeline for its revocation, sources said. On talks with Pakistan, PDP was told that there were already signs of a thaw in relations with foreign secretary S Jaishankar going on an exploratory mission to the neighbouring country next month. 'We are working hard to complete the CMP,' BJP general secretary Ram Madhav said. The deal is likey to be sealed at a meeting between prime minister Narendra Modi and PDP's Mufti Mohammad Sayeed either on February 23 or 24, sources said. If all goes well, the oath-taking ceremony could be held the following weekend in Jammu. BJP sources said there were no big hurdles in the way and once the two sides have agreed to work together, it would not take much time. Asked if the announcement could be made in the next day or two, they said it cannot be ruled out. However, party sources also said that with the two parties are nearing an understanding, and formal talks between the two sides would now begin. While Mufti Mohammad Sayeed would be the chief minister, BJP's Nirmal Singh is likely to be deputy chief minister in the PDP-BJP alliance. Singh, along with other party leaders from the state, had talks with the party leadership on Friday. The PDP has 28 MLAs and the BJP 25 in the 87-member assembly. PDP emerged as the single largest party winning 28 seats in the recently concluded polls. BJP came second winning 25 seats, all of them from Jammu division. A formation needs 44 members in the 87 member House to form the government in Jammu and Kashmir. Jammu and Kashmir was placed under the governor's rule on January 8 following Omar Abdullah's decision to step down as the caretaker chief minister.