Last ditch efforts to stitch PDP-BJP government in J&K begin (News Analysis)

Jammu/Srinagar, March 16 (IANS) The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) camps in Jammu and Kashmir are more upbeat about government formation today than they ever have been during the past more than two months.

A series of developments taking place in the last three days indicate that the two alliance partners are warming up to each other on government-formation in the state that was placed under Governor’s Rule on January 8, a day after the then chief minister, Mufti Muhammad Sayeed, passed away at AIIMS in New Delhi following a brief illness.

State BJP chief Sat Pal Sharma on Wednesday told reporters in winter capital Jammu: “The stalemate has ended. An elected government would take office soon.”

The series of ‘positive developments’, as the state PDP and BJP leaders have been calling these, got off the starting block with union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley making a statement in Parliament regarding J&K.

Jaitley told the Lok Sabha on Monday that the Centre was committed to implementing the developmental agenda for the state which included the Rs.80,000 crore financial package announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Jaitley further said that the Centre was committed to equitable development of all the three regions of the state — Ladakh, Kashmir Valley and Jammu.

PDP insiders told IANS that Jaitley’s statement in Parliament included an assurance that the PDP — read its chief Mehbooba Mufti — had demanded.

The statement by Jaitley came a day before PDP president Mehbooba Mufti flew to New Delhi to attend Parliament before it goes into inter-session recess on March 17.

Mehbooba Mufti’s visit to New Delhi was ostensibly already planned — but given the renewed hopes in her party and the BJP, there is definitely something more brewing than meets the eye.

The day she flew to New Delhi, state governor N.N. Vohra postponed the crucial State Advisory Council (SAC) meeting in which budget proposals for the state relating to the next fiscal were scheduled to be discussed.

Vohra also postponed another important meeting of political leaders of various parties that he had called for discussing the modalities of the forthcoming local urban bodies elections in the state.

These two decision indicate that the governor may have received feelers about an elected government taking office soon.

Constitutional experts opine that the governor, who has kept the state assembly in suspended animation, cannot do so beyond April 9.

According to article 53 of the J&K constitution, the gap between the two sessions of the state legislative assembly cannot be more than six months.

“The last session of the state assembly ended on October 10, 2015. This means that the state assembly must hold its session before April 9 failing which the governor is bound to recommend dissolution of the state assembly,” said a constitutional expert here.

J&K is the only state in the country that has a constitution of its own applicable concomitantly to the Indian constitution.

In a nutshell, last ditch efforts to stitch a ruling alliance between the PDP and the BJP are on at present.

Whether this fructifies into government-formation or forces a mid-term election on the state would be known within the next five-to-seven days.

“It has to be now or never,” said a senior PDP leader while commenting on the renewed efforts to form an elected government in Jammu and Kashmir.

(Sheikh Qayoom can be contacted at sheikh.q@ians.in)

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