PDP keeps BJP waiting, Finance Secretary Watal meets Mehbooba Mufti

Watal, however, told The Indian Express: “I only met (her) to offer my heartfelt condolences on the passing away of the honourable Chief Minister, her late father, who I held in high regard.”

Written by Bashaarat Masood , Arun Sharma | Srinagar/jammu | Updated: January 15, 2016 9:16:57 am
mehbooba mufti, mufti, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, J&K, Jammu and kashmir, kashmir, pdp, J&k, mehbooba, J&K news People’s Democratic Party (PDP) leader Mehbooba Mufti. (Express archive photo)

As the PDP toughened its stand on government formation in Jammu and Kashmir saying it will “review the progress of the agenda of alliance”, the Centre Thursday rushed Finance Secretary Ratan P Watal to meet Mehbooba Mufti.

Watal, however, told The Indian Express: “I only met (her) to offer my heartfelt condolences on the passing away of the honourable Chief Minister, her late father, who I held in high regard.”

But senior PDP leader and former education minister Naeem Akhtar told The Indian Express: “We will review the progress on the agenda of alliance we drafted. It was a common vision of the Prime Minister and Mufti sahib. We are reviewing how much of it has been achieved.”

Asked whether the review of the “agenda of alliance” also meant review of the PDP alliance with the BJP, Akhtar declined comment. He said a decision on the review rested with Mehbooba Mufti.

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“Mehboobaji will discuss it with senior party leaders and ministers (of the Mufti cabinet), especially (Muzaffar Hussain) Beig sahib. And she will decide whether a committee should be formed to review it or not,” he said. A party dissident, Beig is coming back to the centrestage of state politics.

The PDP believes that the coalition government has not followed the “agenda of alliance” drafted by the two parties. “The agenda has to be implemented,” Akhtar said. “The power projects have not been returned, there has been no progress on vacation of land by the Army, on smart cities, and internal dimension of Kashmir. Jammu and Kashmir is a national concern, you can’t deal with it so casually,” he said.

Sources in PDP said the party is upset over the last-minute changes to the special package for Jammu and Kashmir. The Centre, PDP sources claimed, not only reduced the flood relief and rehabilitation package but also left out Rs 40,000 crore, earmarked for power projects, from the package.

The PDP’s tough talk has rattled the BJP leadership and Watal was sent to Srinagar. “He met Mehboobaji. He had been sent with a message from the Centre,” a PDP leader said. “He tried to allay apprehensions of Mehboobaji and gave certain assurances and guarantees. He also assured her that the release of special package funds would be expedited.”

Another senior PDP leader said: “We formed an alliance with the BJP in the most difficult circumstances and reposed trust in the BJP leadership. We feel that trust has been betrayed. There was clear agreement on the transfer of power projects in the agenda for alliance but the Centre removed that from the package. The tunnel on the Mughal road, compensation for land with Central agencies are other areas.’’

There is also a division within the PDP regarding the party’s handling of the coalition after Mufti’s death. A section of the leadership close to the BJP believes that raising such issues before government formation is “counter-productive”.

“Neither the PDP nor the BJP has a choice to form a government without each other. Neither can afford another election. If we have to go with the BJP, why do we have to create such a ruckus in public,’’ a senior PDP leader said.

BJP leaders are guarded in their response.

“Officially, we have not received any such signal from PDP,’’ said senior BJP leader Nirmal Singh who was Deputy Chief Minister in the Mufti government. “We don’t know if his (Akhtar’s) statement had Mehbooba Mufti’s sanction,’’ he said, adding that the situation will be clear by next week. “We are waiting for an official response from them (PDP),’’ he said.

State BJP president Sat Sharma also refused comment until the PDP made its position official. “Naeem Akhtar is not the official spokesperson of the party,’’ he said, adding “like him, there are many in our party too making such statements and we cannot lend credence to them’’.

“I don’t think these are the views of PDP president Mehbooba Mufti. But if this is the official view (of PDP), then the BJP will have to chalk out its own strategy.”

He said the BJP will “wait for official intimation from them (PDP) for another two-three days before discussing the situation. We believe a great man has gone… his family is in mourning.”— With Mir Ehsan in Srinagar

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