Maintaining it was keen to continue its coalition with the PDP in Jammu and Kashmir, the BJP admitted Monday that “there is a delay” in the power-sharing arrangement.
Some BJP leaders indicated that the party could seek to redefine its alliance before Mehbooba Mufti takes over as Chief Minister — her father and Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed died in New Delhi on January 7 and Governor’s rule is in place in the state.
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BJP general secretary Ram Madhav told The Indian Express: “There is a delay. But the process (of discussions) could begin in two days. We are in touch with each other.” Madhav rejected speculation on uncertainty about the coalition and dismissed reports that both parties have put up fresh conditions. He said no political discussion has started since Mehbooba, who he has already met, continues to be in mourning.
The PDP also maintained that there was no deadlock. It said the government-formation process had been delayed because Mehbooba was still to “come out of shock”. “There is no stalemate,” said Altaf Bukhari, a senior PDP leader who was a minister in the Sayeed government. “We must understand that a daughter has lost her father and a party has lost its leader. It may be true that in the past 20 years, we have got immune to death but we have some traditions. It (the delay) is just normal.”
PDP sources said rumours about a PDP-BJP deadlock began doing the rounds after Congress president Sonia Gandhi called on Mehbooba last Sunday. “It was a condolence meeting,” a senior party leader said. “The media is reading too much into it. Even the Congress has clarified that is was just a condolence meeting.”
Sonia Gandhi, accompanied by Ambika Soni and Ghulam Nabi Azad, visited the Fairview residence of the Muftis and met Mehbooba for about 20 minutes. Senior BJP leader and Union Minister Nitin Gadkari too met Mehbooba Sunday.
Senior PDP leader Naeem Akhtar said the party is yet to start a process for government formation in the state. “We have not discussed it yet. When the process starts, the decision will lie with the president of the party,” he said, adding that he would not like to comments on rumours of a deadlock with the BJP.
BJP sources, however, said the party wants to review some points in the Common Minimum Programme, the roadmap prepared for the coalition and some changes in the state cabinet.
“Since the state is now under Governor’s rule, there is scope for full-fledged government formation. So the BJP and PDP to have a re-look at the cabinet,” a senior BJP leader said.
What worries the BJP is also the temperament of Mehbooba. “The BJP was very comfortable with Mufti Saab. Mehbooba is not Mufti Saab. So we need to guarantee that our interests are also protected before the new government comes in,” the leader said.
In the 87-member J&K House, the PDP has 28 seats (now 27 following Sayeed’s death), BJP 25, NC 15, Congress 12 and others 7.