By Sheikh Qayoom
The PDP and BJP are close to an agreement to govern Jammu and Kashmir in coalition with PDP leader Mufti Mohammad Sayeed as chief minister, PDP sources said.
The deadlock over government formation in the state may end soon, with both PDP and BJP insiders saying the two parties were close to striking an agreement.
A PDP source say that the two parties were close to giving the country’s only Muslim-majority state a government after assembly elections produced a hung 87-member house.
Former chief minister Sayeed would be the chief minister of the coalition government, according to the party source.
“Yes, the two parties are close to reaching a final understanding,” the source said.
“As per the terms of the arrangement that are in the final stage, Mufti sahib would be the chief minister. The state would have a BJP deputy chief minister with six PDP and eight BJP ministers,” the source added.
“The arrangement would be for the six-year period which is the tenure of the state assembly.”
A Bharatiya Janata Party insider said that his party was determined to be a part of the next government in the state but did not authenticate what the PDP sources said.
“We are sure no ruling alliance can be formed in Jammu and Kashmir without our direct participation,” the BJP source said.
Details of discussions between PDP and BJP were not available but PDP leaders have said that they would not compromise on some issues concerning Jammu and Kashmir.
The PDP is clear that article 370 of the constitution, which gives special status to Jammu and Kashmir, cannot be revoked. The BJP has traditionally been opposed to this article.
The PDP also wants the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, which gives sweeping powers to security forces, to go – and the multi-regional, multi-ethnic, multi-religious identity of the state to be protected.
While the PDP won all but two of its 28 seats in the assembly from the Muslim-dominated Kashmir Valley, all the 25 seats of the BJP were bagged in the Hindu-majority Jammu region.
Any government will need the support of at least 44 legislators in the 87-seat assembly.
BJP leaders say Hindus and Jammu region have been discriminated against in the state.
PDP spokesman Naeem Akhtar said his party was trying to strike the best deal for all the three regions of the state: the Kashmir Valley, the Jammu region and the mainly Buddhist Ladakh.
“As the single largest party we respect the support offered to us by other parties,” Akhtar said while commenting on the offers from the National Conference and the Congress.
Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad, a former chief minister, had hinted at a grand alliance among the PDP, the Congress and the National Conference.
Congress sources here said party president Sonia Gandhi had spoken to PDP leader Sayeed.
The National Conference and Congress have 15 and 12 seats respectively.
Governor N.N. Vohra has sent separate letters to both the PDP and the BJP inviting them to discuss government formation.
The term of the outgoing assembly ends Jan 16.