The Jammu and Kashmir government is likely to be sworn in on April 4.
The BJP, which had wanted the swearing-in to be held on an “auspicious” day in April and “a few more cabinet berths”, has reportedly agreed on the date with the PDP and deferred its demand for equal distribution of cabinet slots. As of now, the ministers will be distributed according to the previous formula.
The decision came two weeks after the alliance partners broke a two-month deadlock to shake hands on government formation and five days after the two sides met Governor N N Vohra to stake their claim.
Sources said that Vohra had asked the coalition partners about the date of government formation. According to sources, this nudge, especially to the BJP, may have helped end the uncertainty and pushed the party to agree on an early date for swearing-in and defer its push for more cabinet berths till after the government formation.
Both parties are on an equal footing, with 28 legislators each in the 87-member Assembly. Following the death of PDP patron Mufti Mohammad Sayeed in January, the BJP wanted the swearing-in to be held on an “auspicious” day in April.
Last week, BJP general secretary Ram Madhav had said that the date would be finalised after a meeting between local leaders. In response, PDP’s Chief Minister-nominee Mehbooba Mufti left the decision to senior party leader and MP Muzaffar Hussain Beigh and BJP’s Deputy CM-nominee Nirmal Singh.
According to BJP sources, Madhav was given three auspicious dates for the swearing-in — all in April — during the legislature party meeting last Friday because the current period falls under “Krishna Paksha”, which is considered inauspicious.
Sources said the BJP was also keen on the Finance portfolio, besides a junior minister’s slot in Home and Planning, while the PDP wanted to continue with the previous arrangement in which they held these portfolios.
The PDP’s stance was that there would be no change because the BJP wasn’t ready to provide any assurance on the agenda of alliance or negotiate a timeframe for its implementation. “The previous arrangement will have to continue. That was the stance of the BJP leadership when they convinced Mehboobaji to take over after Mufti Sahib’s death’’ said a senior PDP leader.
State BJP president Sat Sharma, however, denied that the party was waiting for an auspicious day or that there were differences over portfolios. “There are certain issues that need to be sorted out before we can arrive at a decision on the date,” he said, declining to reveal what those “issues” were.
During the previous coalition government, the PDP had 11 cabinet ministers including Mufti, while the BJP had eight, including Sajjad Lone of People’s Conference. Both had three ministers of state each.
“We were silent then as all of us considered Mufti as a fatherly figure in the coalition. Mehbooba, on the other hand, joined politics much later than a number of the BJP legislators,” said a senior BJP leader.
BJP sources said their demand was based on the “treatment meted out to the party at the hands of former Finance Minister Haseeb Drabu whose style of functioning had left many fuming”.
The PDP leadership, on the other hand, has serious misgivings about the “the way in which BJP used Sangh organisations to flout the agreement in agenda of alliance and go to court questioning sensitive political issues like J-K’s special status, the permanent resident law or even the beef controversy”.
A senior PDP leader said they had already raised these issues before the BJP’s top leadership.
Although the BJP leadership has agreed on the date of swearing-in, the disagreements seem to be here to stay. For the two partners, a smooth sailing will be a big challenge.