When the news of dissolution of the J&K Legislative Assembly came, there wasn’t much mourning in the three parties —PDP, NC and Congress — who had come together to form a new coalition.
In fact, there was a sense of guarded relief because a coalition of political archrivals, finding a new CM candidate and running J&K when the ground in Kashmir has already slipped was not an easy task. At the end of the day, however, it is clear that Round One in this political battle was won by the new Opposition combine.
The sword of rebellion that was hanging over the heads of almost all of these parties, especially the PDP, had lifted. Peoples Conference leader Sajad Lone, who has emerged as the Centre’s new man in Kashmir, has been halted in his tracks, at least for the time being. The BJP’s plan to push NC and PDP to the margins of politics in J&K too has failed.
The PDP was under serious threat of a breakup. Five legislators have already rebelled. This includes a former cabinet minister in PDP-BJP government. Former finance minister Haseeb Drabu too is keeping his distance especially after he was removed from the Mufti Cabinet. The latest statement by party’s founding member and Lok Sabha MP Muzaffar Hussain Baig that he was ready to support a third front led by Sajad Lone had added weight to the rebellion.
In case, the Governor had invited the alliance to form the government, the PDP had another headache: find a suitable candidate for CM’s post. While Altaf Bukhari had played a vital role in the formation of this new coalition, there were murmurs in PDP that “non-controversial” Abdul Rehman Veeri may emerge as a consensus candidate.
This would have led to yet another powerful group within the PDP to be disgruntled with the leadership. Another key challenge for the new coalition would have been the ground situation in Kashmir where the challenge would have been to run day-to-day affairs because of a confrontation with the Centre.
The NC, sources said, is also relieved that it now doesn’t have to work with arch rival PDP in a new coalition. Also, this gave the party the chance to be seen as standing up for the sepcial status of J&K and make a serious attempt to keep BJP out of power even at the cost of joining its arch rival.
For the Congress, by agreeing to become alliance partners of both NC and PDP, the party effectively managed to make it “impossible for BJP to find a coalition partner after the next Assembly polls”.
“This will also help us garner support of both of these major regional parties during Lok Sabha elections in Jammu and Ladakh constituencies,’’ a Congress leader said. “Besides, this is also part of the larger plan to have alliances with important regional parties across the country. If bitter political enemies like NC and PDP come together with us in an alliance, anything is possible in other states.”
The sudden dissolution of the Assembly will adversely impact Sajad Lone and his efforts to cobble up a new coalition that he has tirelessly on worked for months. The state is now headed for polls with a possibility that the Assembly elections will be held with the Lok Sabha polls next year.