NEW DELHI -- Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed passed away ten days ago, but his daughter, Mehbooba Mufti, who succeeds him as chief of the Peoples Democratic Party, still hasn't confirmed her party's alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party.
Rumours about changes in the PDP-BJP alliance, regarded as unnatural from its birth in the spring of 2015, has been the source of high drama and speculation, over the past week.
At one point, National Conference president Farooq Abdullah had to clarify that his party wasn't partnering with the BJP, and called for fresh elections if the PDP-BJP couldn't figure out a way of working together.
Following its formal meeting on Sunday, PDP members said that Mufti would take the final call on government formation, but the “Agenda For Alliance” would be followed, hinting at the continuation of a coalition. Significantly, the party did not speak of any preconditions for the BJP.
The State Assembly election, which recorded one of the highest voter turnouts in Jammu and Kashmir, led to PDP emerging as the single largest party with 28 seats, BJP 25, National Conference 15 and Congress 12.
The state is currently under Governor's Rule, a throwback to December 2014 when the state election resulted in a hung assembly, and further back to 2008, when PDP pulled out of the Congress-led coalition government led by Ghulam Nabi Azad.
Mufti could be the first woman chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir State when she steps into her father's shoes. While the 56-year-old leader has stayed mum, others have had their say on the political limbo.
Following the PDP meeting on Sunday, National Conference leader Omar Abdullah said that it was quite clear that the alliance would continue without any preconditions, but the PDP was delaying to "to create a smokescreen of stiff morality."
"To hang on to this alliance with the BJP for dear life while pretending to be the unwavering example of high morality is akin to aspiring to have the cake and eat it too," said Abdullah, the former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir State.
The longer Mehbooba delays the more people will expect her to extract concessions from the centre. Good luck to her in these games of her's.— Omar Abdullah (@abdullah_omar) January 17, 2016
Sayeed, who founded his party in 1999, had dubbed the PDP-BJP alliance as the meeting of "North Pole and South Pole."
Skeptics wondered whether the two parties will be to function together given their vast ideological differences on critical issues like Article 370, which gives special status to Jammu and Kashmir State, and the AFPSA law, which shields soldiers from prosecution in conflict zone
BJP has stood for the abrogation of Article 370, but PDP has pushed for greater autonomy than what is available under the current constitutional scheme. BJP backs AFSPA as necessary to battling the low-intensity insurgency in Kashmir, but PDP wants its withdrawal.
In March, the J&K government released its Agenda For Alliance, a document that aimed to give some insight into how the two parties plan to tackle some of these tough issues, but the language doesn't really pin down any consensus.
On AFSPA: The coalition government will thoroughly review security situation in state with a view to examine need and desirability of all the special laws being applied to state.
On Article 370: While recognising the different positions of both parties the present position will be maintained on all the constitutional provisions including special status.
BJP-PDP journey over the past ten months has been fraught with tense moments.
Shortly after the government was formed, an Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh- backed think tank, Jammu and Kashmir Study Centre, aggressively opposed Article 370, and challenged Article 35-A, which grants special rights to its permanent residents.
BJP's Nirmal Singh, deputy chief minister of J&K, has said that its alliance with PDP has not changed the party's stance on Article 370.
Two weeks before Sayeed passed away, BJP's Farooq Khan challenged the Jammu and Kashmir High Court order for the state flag and national flag being used together on government property. A division bench of the court stayed the order.
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