The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) indicated on Wednesday that it was not averse to an alliance with the BJP. PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti said the “huge mandate” for the BJP in Jammu region was an “opportunity” for Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Invoking former Prime Minister A B Vajpayee, she said the “initiatives” that he launched in the state should be “restarted”.
“The PDP has the support of more than 55 MLAs, which is more than enough to form the government,” said Mehbooba, referring to media reports about the Congress, NC and some Independents offering support to her party. “But it is not the PDP’s priority to cobble up a majority just for the sake of government formation… We do not want to form the government in a hurry.”
Speaking to the media after an hour-long meeting with Governor N N Vohra, Mehbooba said the people have given a “very decisive” but “divided verdict”. While the PDP has emerged as the largest single party in the Valley, the BJP is the largest party in Jammu region.
“We have to carry forward the PDP’s political agenda of reconciliation which was initiated by former Prime Minister A B Vajpayee. We have to meet the aspirations of people in all the regions and initiate development,” she said.
Speaking to The Indian Express after Mufti’s comments, BJP general secretary Ram Madhav said: “To find an amicable arrangement is not impossible. Structure and shape of the alliance is yet to be clear,” adding that they were ready for “open discussions”.
Targeting the Congress, Mehbooba said while the Vajpayee government had resumed talks with Pakistan, initiated unconditional dialogue with Hurriyat leaders and provided an economic package for rebuilding the state, the UPA government “discontinued all these initiatives after some time.”
Stressing the need to “restart all these initiatives”, she said, “If people have given such a huge mandate for the first time, there is a huge responsibility on the BJP and Modi to avail this opportunity, as it will lead to peace in the state and a solution to the vexed Kashmir issue.” She said Modi’s promise of development and employment would not be possible without restarting the initiatives started by the Vajpayee government.
The PDP has 28 MLAs, BJP 25, NC 15, Congress 12 and others 7 in the 87-member assembly. The Congress has already offered unconditional support to the PDP, while the NC has conveyed its support through an emissary. The lone CPM MLA, M Y Tarigami, along with Engineer Abdul Rashid (Awami Itihaad Party) and Hakeem Yaseen (Independent) have also appealed to all the non-BJP parties to join hands with the PDP. Sources said the BJP might also drop its insistence on a Hindu CM to join hands with the PDP.
Buoyed by Mehbooba Mufti’s “clear signals”, BJP leaders said formal talks between the parties can begin in two-three days. Sources said Mehbooba and former deputy CM Muzzafar Hussain Beig are expected to begin the negotiations and Mufti Mohammad Sayeed will meet PM Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah only after the talks find common ground.
BJP leaders have also started praising Sayeed in informal chats. “We have tremendous respect for him,” said a senior BJP leader.