Srinagar, JAMMU AND KASHMIR: On Wednesday night, two different groups attempting to stake a claim to form the government in Jammu and Kashmir came across an unlikely hurdle—the fax machine in Raj Bhavan.
On one side was the purported alliance between the People's Democratic Party (PDP), Congress and National Conference (NC). On the other was Sajjad Gani Lone, the separatist-turned-mainstream politician backed by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
When Twitter and WhatsApp ruled
Messages flew thick and fast on Twitter and WhatsApp as both groups said they could not contact governor Satyapal Malik, seemingly because the fax machine at Raj Bhavan wasn't working.
At around 8:30 pm on Wednesday, PDP's Mehbooba Mufti, former chief minister, tweeted out a letter she said she had been trying to send to the governor.
In the letter, she said, "As you are aware that People Democratic Party is the largest party in the state assembly having a strength of 29. You might have gathered from the media reports that the Congress and the National Conference have decided to extend support to our party to form a government in the state. National Conference has a strength of 15 and the Congress 12. That takes our collective strength to 56."
She added that the new allies "would be seeking your convenience shortly to stake the claim for forming the government in the state".
Minutes later, Lone, who heads the People's Conference, tweeted that he had sent his letter to the governor's PA through WhatsApp. He also attached a screenshot of the message, which said:
"Following our telephonic conversations regarding government formation in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, I hereby formally stake my claim for government formation in the state with the support of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and more than 18 elected members of the J&K state legislature, which is more than the required number of members making a majority in the state legislative assembly. I shall submit the letter of support from the BJP legislature party and other members supporting the government headed by the undersigned as and when asked to do so by your excellency."
And then, minutes later, news broke that the governor was dissolving the state assembly, which has been in a state of suspended animation since the fall of the PDP-BJP government in June.
According to a statement, Malik took the decision after considering factors including the "impossibility of forming a stable government by the coming together of political parties with opposing political ideologies"; reports of horse-trading; doubts about the "longevity of any such arrangement"; and the security scenario in the state. Elections would be held at an "appropriate time", he said.
Mufti didn't let this pass untweeted:
While the warring sides were attempting to form the government on social media, NC leader Omar Abdullah weighed in, tweeting:
He added: "It can't be a coincidence that within minutes of Mehbooba Mufti Sahiba letter staking claim the order to dissolve the assembly suddenly appears."
The ribbing didn't end there.
At least two senior leaders from the possible PDP-NC-Congress alliance, who wanted to remain anonymous, said that the governor not dissolving the assembly and being reluctant to announce a possible date for fresh elections had become a major concern for the PDP and NC.
It is possible that the regional parties may not suffer much from the assembly dissolution as it gives them a chance to fight the elections and, more importantly, keep their members together amid growing speculation that some might defect BJP-Lone alliance.
Earlier in the day, MY Tarigami, the lone CPM lawmaker from the state, had told HuffPost India had said that his party was in discussions with Abdullah over the possible alliance. He met with Abdullah during the day as well.
"If the governor dissolves the assembly it will set a bad precedent. It is a chance for the secular forces to come together and if the governor stops it, that will undermine our democratic processes," Tarigami had said earlier.
Meanwhile, the newly discovered bonhomie between Mufti and Abdullah on Twitter continues.