Before BJP got in touch with PDP to discuss a ruling alliance in J&K, its top brass met Omar Abdullah in New Delhi on Christmas eve, a day after the results were announced, to discuss the contours of a possible tie-up.
On the table was an offer of a Union Cabinet berth for Omar and the Deputy CM post for his party in the state, sources aware of these discussions told The Indian Express.
They added that Omar met BJP president Amit Shah and the party’s national general secretary Ram Madhav at an apartment in Delhi on the night of December 24. Omar’s National Conference (NC) had won 15 seats and BJP 25 seats in the 87-member Assembly following the results announced on December 23.
Speaking about the secret meeting, the sources pointed to an image posted by Omar on Twitter on December 24 which read: “Keep calm cause I’ll be back.” At 1.59 pm, he followed that tweet with a smiley. That night, he is learnt to have met Madhav and Shah.
Madhav and Omar were unavailable for comment. Sources in their parties, however, confirmed the meeting but differed in their interpretation of what transpired.
“We did try to form an alliance with NC. But that did not work out because Omar lacked conviction,” said a senior BJP leader.
An NC leader said the BJP’s offer was based on two assumptions. “They were not comfortable with the politics of PDP. The NC being a smaller party, the BJP thought it could get its way, but this was unacceptable to Omar,” he said.
NC sources said the BJP even tried to “bypass” Omar by twice sending emissaries to meet his father Farooq Abdullah in London.
BJP sources said Farooq was fine with an alliance, but added that they felt Omar was being “immature”. “He thought he could become the Chief Minister when the BJP ran out of options after its talks with PDP failed,” said a BJP leader.
The day after the meeting, Madhav tried to downplay the buzz about alliance talks by announcing on Twitter at 12.29 pm: “News about BJP leaders meeting NC leadership in Delhi baseless”. This was immediately retweeted by Omar.
NC sources now claim that the BJP did not offer any “forward movement” on key issues including autonomy to J&K, AFSPA and Article 370, etc.
On the other hand, a BJP source said, “The NC’s initial response was very positive. But our assessment post-talks was that Omar lacked conviction. He lost out on an opportunity.”