The PDP and the BJP, it has been learnt, are close to reaching a seat-sharing agreement for 11 J&K Legislative Council seats, elections to which have been scheduled for March 2.
There are currently 13 vacancies in the Upper House. While 87 newly-elected MLAs, all having seven votes each, would choose 11 MLCs, the remaining to seats would be filled after voting by elected representatives of local bodies.
Of these 11 vacancies, five are in Jammu, four in the Valley and two in Ladakh regions. Elections were necessitated after terms of a few NC and Congress members either got over or they got elected to the Lower House. Eight more seats would fall vacant on March 31, only to be filled by nominations from the Governor. “It (seat-sharing deal) is almost done,” a senior PDP leader told The Indian Express. “We have almost finalised our list of candidates”.
According to the agreement, sources said, the PDP would field three candidates for the four Valley seats and leave one seat for the BJP. The saffron party might field Hina Bhat — who lost the Assembly elections from Amirakadal — from the Valley. The two parties would be contesting one seat each in Ladakh region, while in Jammu the BJP and the PDP would field three and two candidates, respectively.
Fear of losing one Council seat from the Valley to National Conference might have forced PDP to intensify talks with BJP for forming a ruling alliance in Jammu and Kashmir. Sources in Congress said that in lieu of NC’s support to Ghulam Nabi Azad in the Rajya Sabha elections, the party would back NC’s candidate in fray for one of the four Legislative Council seats in Jammu region for which all the MLAs have only one vote each. The Congress would also support NC candidates in fray for two Valley seats being filled up through single election.
To win any of the two Valley seats, a candidate needs 29 votes, while 18 votes are required for winning a Jammu seat. In view of both the PDP and the NC sharing the same political space in the Valley, the former does not want to lose any Council seat, sources pointed out.
Though Hakeem Yaseen and Engineer Rashid, the two Independents who supported Azad in the Rajya Sabha elections, might not vote for the NC candidate in view of public sentiments being against the party, sources said both the PDP and BJP to avoid recurrence of the Rajya Sabha polls fiasco want to have their government in place before the MLC elections as this would allow them two women members nominated.
As these nominated women members have the right to vote in the Council polls, they would help the alliance win both the Valley seats. However, despite nomination of two women, the PDP-BJP combine would have to lose one of the four Jammu seats as candidates need at least 18 votes to win a seat, sources said.
For the remaining five vacancies, the newly-elected MLAs would cast vote for each of them separately as these seats would go to polls one by one. The PDP-BJP combine would have a cakewalk on all these seats as they have the support of 57 members, including two People’s Conference MLAs and two Independents — one each from Udhampur and Kargil.