There was intense speculation about an imminent alliance between the BJP and the PDP before Feb 7 when elections for four Rajya Sabha seats are to be held in Jammu and Kashmir. Leaders admitted to informal talks on government formation.
Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chief spokesperson Naeem Akhtar said in Jammu city: “Formal talks are yet to begin with the BJP. Yes, talks at an informal level are going on.”
The PDP has 28 and the BJP 25 seats in the state assembly. The National Conference won 15 seats and its former ally, the Congress 12. Seven seats went to Independents and smaller parties.
After confusing voices on whether the PDP should ally with the BJP or not started emerging from within the party, PDP president Mehbooba Mufti authorizsed only Naeem Akhtar to speak to the media.
Jitendra Singh, minister of state in the Prime Minister’s Office, has told reporters: “Talks on Article 370 and AFSPA (Armed Forces Special Powers Act) are being held by responsible people of the party.”
PDP patron Mufti Muhammad Sayeed’s two-hour long dinner meeting with Governor N.N. Vohra Sunday fuelled speculations that the PDP patron discussed the prospects of government formation with Vohra despite the PDP chief spokesperson parrying a direct question.
Akhtar said: “Yes. Mufti Sahib met the governor, but we are not in any hurry.”
The term of the outgoing state assembly ended Monday.
The 12th state assembly has been constituted by a notification of the state law department, but the elected members are yet to be sworn in.
Political grapevine is rife that the BJP-PDP alliance may be announced anytime later this month.
The two parties will have to chalk out a clear common strategy on whether they want to fight the Rajya Sabha elections jointly or separately.
If they choose to fight the elections jointly, it is quite possible all the four seats would be won by the BJP-PDP combine. But, if they fight these separately, it is possible the two might not win more than two seats, while the other two could go to the National Conference and the Congress.
Elections for four Rajya Sabha seats from the state are being held Feb 7 as the terms of two candidates each from the Congress and the NC end next month.
The outgoing Rajya Sabha candidates from the state are Ghulam Nabi Azad and Saifuddin Soz of the Congress, and Ghulam Nabi Ratanpuri and Muhammad Shafi Uri of the NC.
The electoral college for the Rajya Sabha elections is formed by the 87-member state legislative assembly.
As per a ruling of the Supreme Court, elected members of a state assembly can vote for the Rajya Sabha elections even if the state assembly is kept in suspended animation as was done by the governor when he imposed Governor’s rule here Jan 8.
While the central direct rule in other states is through President’s rule, under constitutional provisions in Jammu and Kashmir it is through Governor’s rule.
It is believed the BJP high command wants a clear understanding with the PDP so that the two vote jointly during the Rajya Sabha elections.
Political experts feel this would come handy for the PDP to ensure that the BJP agrees to most of its conditions for alliance, including a full six-year term for Mufti Muhammad Sayeed as the chief minister.
Those optimistic about the BJP-PDP alliance say most of the terms of alliance have already been agreed upon and it is only the nuts and bolts that are now being tackled.