SRINAGAR/RANCHI -- The ruling Bharatiya Janta Party emerged as the key player today in the two state assembly elections with major gains in Jammu and Kashmir and the biggest seat tally in Jharkhand. The BJP won 37 seats in Jharkhand and 25 in J&K’s 87-seat legislature, up from the 11 seats it won last time.
In Jharkhand, a BJP-led coalition is set to form the government, even though with former chief minister Arjun Munda losing his seat, it is unclear who might head the government. In J&K, the government formation is still wide open, with a lot depending on what calculations the People's Democratic Party will be swayed by.
The ruling National Conference in J&K faced a definite washout with Chief Minister Omar Abdullah losing from Sonawar in Srinagar but winning narrowly from Beerwah in Budgam district.
BJP won 26 of the 27 seats it was leading in while PDP has won 25 of 28 seats in J&K. The People’s Democratic Party emerged as the single largest, while the NC had to settle for 15 seats. PDP is in the position to form the next government in the state with the support of either BJP or Congress.
IBNLive quoted PDP's Mehbooba Mufti as saying that her party was not looking to “cobble up a government by manipulation”. “It will take time to build a formation that can fulfill the aspirations of people of J&K. The votes have been cast against the NC and the Congress,” Mufti said.
Abdullah acknowledged that a lot of factors went against the NC.
“Media was not ready to give us more than seven seats before elections. Now we have 14 seats and we have helped two independents. We have got 16-17 seats. We have not got any offer as yet and are not even looking for any offer,” Abdullah said.
“There were a lot of things that did not go in our favour, we could not have expected a better result,” he said. Abdullah told NDTV’s Barkha Dutt that NC is not closed to the idea of supporting PDP if Mufti called him.
Earlier, BJP indicated that it is disinclined to form a government in alliance with the PDP in Jammu and Kashmir, the NDTV reported quoting senior BJP leaders. NDTV sources said “the party does not see much common ground ideologically with the PDP of Mufti Mohammad Saeed, who seems best placed to be the next chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, a post he has held before.”
Congress ruled out an alliance with the BJP in the state but said it was "open" to aligning with PDP to provide a government. "We are always open. We have allied with PDP as well as with National Conference in past. One thing is clear that we will not go with BJP. As far as they (PDP and NC) are concerned, we have had alliances with them," PTI quoted Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad as saying.
BJP said it has kept all options open for government formation in J&K. Party president Amit Shah said BJP was “open to supporting any party or taking support from any other party."
"Wait for some time, something good will happen in J&K," he said.
Shah attributed the saffron surge in the two states to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s charisma. “In Jammu and Kashmir too, we have improved to quite an extent. Modiji's support has led to the party's victory. Under his leadership, the party won the Lok Sabha elections and other elections like the Maharashtra and Haryana assembly elections,” Shah said.
Shah did not rule out joining hands with either PDP or National Conference. BJP's decision will also depend on initiatives taken by other parties, he said. The party's Parliamentary Board in its meeting tomorrow will weigh its options in the state and also deliberate on its chief ministerial candidate in Jharkhand, where it is set to form the government, Shah said.
The shock loss of party leader and former chief minister Arjun Munda has further thrown open the leadership issue in Jharkhand. While the J&K Assembly election result has returned a hung verdict, BJP with its ally AJSU is close to crossing the magic number of 41 in the 81-member Jharkhand House.
BJP has emerged as a relevant democratic force in J&K, Shah said.