Hectic parleys are on in Jammu and Kashmir between People's Democratic Party, which emerged as the single largest in the recently concluded Assembly elections with 28 seats and the Bharatiya Janata Party, a close second. The PDP and BJP, which has won 25 seats, all in Jammu, have been invited by Governor N N Vohra for discussions over government formation by January 1.
The PDP and the BJP seemed close to a deal, NDTV reported. The BJP is expected to bargain for more time to come up with the numbers required to form government in J&K, it said. NDTV's sources said BJP is likely to submit a letter of support from independent legislators to the Governor.
Hinting that it is ready to do business with BJP, the PDP has sought assurance from its prospective partners over contentious issues like safeguarding Article 370 and revocation of AFSPA.
PDP spokesperson Naeem Akhter said the leadership of his party was discussing all its options for government formation, hinting at an alliance with the BJP. "There are certain issues which form our core agenda and require an assurance that these will be accepted by our potential alliance partner, whichever party it might be," he said.
Akhter said his party's stand on safeguarding Article 370, which guarantees special status to Jammu and Kashmir within the Indian union, was non-negotiable. He also said that the party was committed to revocation of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act from the state, besides initiating a political process for resolution of Kashmir issue.
The BJP is trying to capitalize on its haul of 25 seats, its best ever showing. Party leaders Arun Jaitley and Ram Madhav were in Kashmir earlier this week for the party's legislative meet. Senior leaders of the PDP and BJP have been in talks after the election verdict came in. A PDP-BJP coalition will easily cross the simple majority mark of 44 seats.
The PDP leadership is caught in a 'catch 22' situation with some influential leaders within the party strongly opposing an alliance with the BJP on the grounds that such a partnership can reverse the gains made by the party during recent times.
"While good governance and development is a universal yearning among the people, people in a sensitive place like Kashmir also keenly watch the friends you keep. One of the reasons for decline of National Conference was its hob-nobbing with whichever party was in power at the Centre," he said.
Earlier, the National Conference (NC) had offered support to arch-rival PDP. This was unthinkable until it happened, given the history of mutual hostility between the two parties.
The offer was rejected outright by the PDP. There were differences in the NC's account of the offer, with a spokesperson saying it was a formal letter and Omar Abdullah tweeing later that it was a verbal offer.
Looks like PDP is playing mind games with the BJP leaking about a letter of NC support that doesn't exist. Only a verbal offer conveyed.
— Omar Abdullah (@abdullah_omar) December 26, 2014
Akhter said his party has received no such communication so far from the NC. "As and when such an offer is received we will surely discuss it and decide the future course of action," he said.
National Conference has 15 seats. If the PDP ties up with Congress, which has 12 seats, it will still need four more for the halfway mark. Similar situation exists if the BJP ties up with the National Conference. The support of seven independents will be crucial in such cases.
The results for the state assembly elections on December 23 threw up a hung verdict with no party getting clear majority.
The Congress party is also trying its luck to align with the PDP and form a government. "The Congress party is in touch with PDP and six other Independent legislators to prevent the saffron party from forming government in Jammu and Kashmir through ill means," state Congress spokesman Salman Nizami said.
Nizami said the Congress, with 12 MLAs in its kitty, was ready to forge an alliance with other secular parties "to keep at bay the communal forces that are hell bent to divide the state of Jammu and Kashmir on communal lines." PDP's Akhtar confirmed that Congress has given a proposal for government formation to the PDP.
PDP leader Mehbooba Mufti has said that the party is looking to form a government soon, but is not in a hurry to cobble up a coalition.