Syed Junaid Hashmi
JAMMU, Nov 21: Congress is trying to bring together arch rivals Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and National Conference (NC) in Jammu and Kashmir, pleading them to set-aside their ideological differences and join hands to form a multiparty coalition government.
If Samajwadi Party (SP) and Bahujan Samajwadi Party (BSP) can come together, what stops NC and PDP from joining hands to form a stable government in Jammu and Kashmir, is what Congress leaders are asking. Congress leaders wishing anonymity accepted that they are trying to get arithmetics right before they make anything public officially. “Be sure, we are on the right track. What is required on the part of the two Kashmir based parties is political wisdom,” said a top Congress leader.
He said “BJP has already done a lot of damage to the political, security as well as social set-up of Jammu and Kashmir. Thupstan Chewang, the BJP MP from Ladakh resigned and wrote a detailed letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressing disgust over the way in which Ladakh was being treated. So, time has come to stop BJP from further damaging the social fabric of Jammu and Kashmir. That is why, we are working overnight to bring NC and PDP together.”
On being asked about PDP being a divided house, the Congress leader said “5 MLAs do not make PDP a divided house. PDP is strong enough to survive this critical phase. And it is also in the national interest not to let PDP break into small groups. Every politician of J&K understands what is the need of hour but they have to show courage and come together. There are senior leaders in both NC and PDP, who agree that keeping aside political differences, the two parties should shake hands.”
He said “By keeping state assembly in suspended animation, BJP is giving a clear message that it is in no mood to hold early assembly elections. That means somewhere someone is busy in horse-trading. If this is happening behind the closed doors, what stops these two parties from coming together and forming the government. By coming together, they would save their respective parties, generate positive atmosphere across Kashmir valley and work for the development, peace, progress and prosperity of Jammu and Kashmir.”
Sources in the three parties told The Straight Line that a strategy to checkmate efforts to break PDP and NC and prop up another BJP-backed government has already been devised and mainstream parties which includes Congress, PDP, National Conference, CPI (M) along with independents are in touch to form a government. They added that National Conference (NC) has categorically refused to become part of the government but has promised to consider supporting the PDP-Congress coalition government, if it becomes a reality, from the outside.
Of the three parties, PDP has 28 MLAs while Congress has 12. This takes the number to 40. And along with Engineer Rasheed, Mohammed Yousuf Tarigami and Pawan Gupta, the number reaches 43. With NC providing outside support, it would be a stable coalition government. Though of these three independents, Pawan Gupta is likely to join BJP. He recently supported BJP in the Municipal elections and his brother is now a BJP man.
Sources said that PDP has no option but to form government if it wishes to keep its flock together. “Poaching is going on and the target is PDP, where MLAs are aggrieved and angry. Over-ambitious and opportunists have already shaken hands with both BJP and Sajjad Lone. So, then best way out for PDP is forming a minority government and then, seeking a vote of confidence, which they will win with the help of NC. And if these two parties fail to come together, a break-away faction of PDP will merge with Peoples conference and form government with BJP,” said a senior NC leader.
He said “It is in the interest of the state. That is all I can say.” Sources disclosed that senior PDP leader Muzaffar Hussain Beigh addressed a hurriedly called press conference just to pre-empt the efforts being made by Congress to bring NC and PDP together. They added that Beigh sees himself being crowned as Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir if he manages to pull 18 MLAs out of PDP and join Sajjad Lone’s Peoples Conference (PC).
Though it is not known who all are with Beigh but the fact remains that he is an important player in PDP. So, to keep PDP together, PDP President Mehbooba Mufti has no option but to agree to the arrangement being worked out by Congress. Sources added that if such an arrangement comes about, Mehbooba Mufti is unlikely to be the chief minister but the government may be headed by a senior PDP leader and she would be a strong president of her party.
Coming together of traditionally bitter rivals, the PDP and the NC, would mark a significant realignment of political forces in the state. The National Conference had offered its support to the PDP after the 2014 assembly polls but the latter ignored the offer and aligned with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). After the June 16 pull-out, Lone is understood to have been approaching disgruntled PDP leaders for forming an alliance with the BJP, the sources said.
Imran Ansari, former PDP minister, is among a few others who have been cosy with the People’s Conference, which has also approached some of the MLAs for joining the alliance with the BJP. A former separatist leader, Lone had been successful in breaking away National Conference’s chief spokesman Junaid Muttu, who recently contested the urban local body elections and became Mayor of Srinagar. The state is currently under governor’s rule which cannot be extended after it completes its six-month period on December 19.
It is proposed to impose President’s rule thereafter but 87-member assembly is not being dissolved, according to Governor Satyapal Mallik. A popular government headed by the People’s Democratic Party’s Mehbooba Mufti fell when its partner BJP pulled out of the ruling coalition on June 16. Political circles have been agog with speculation that behind the scene efforts were underway to prop up a government headed by Sajjad Lone’s People Conference, which has only two MLAs but which would be banking on support by the 25 MLAs of BJP.
However, this combination would fall short of the required majority of 44 which is sought to be made by splitting the PDP which has been rocked by dissidence. A founder member of PDP, Muzzafar Beigh also joined the bandwagon of Lone on Tuesday and held a press conference here and said “the PDP betrayed the workers, denying them a chance to connect with people, by boycotting elections.
They left a vacuum and that space has now been occupied. Politics does not wait for people who boycott.” Beigh said, “Now this talk of NC-PDP alliance. How will people of Jammu react? How will people of Ladakh react? It will be an alliance of one religion. Jammu would not like it, Ladakh will not remain part of the state. This will lead to trifurcation of the state.”
A former member of People’s Conference, Beigh said he was not averse to the formation of a third front led by Lone and went on to say “Sajad Lone is like my son.” “I had contested the elections that led to registration of Peoples Conference as a political party. If Sajad (Lone) is interested in (formation of third front), it should be encouraged. People want something different from the beaten track”.