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Sunday, January 10, 2016

Governor’s rule a possible end to PDP-BJP alliance

Sonia generates a new chemistry in J&K politics 

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz 
JAMMU, Jan 9: Peoples Democratic Party hier apparent Mehbooba Mufti’s disinclination to take over as Chief Minister during the mourning of her father Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, who died in hospital on January 7th in New Delhi, coupled with failure to respond to a Raj Bhawan communication, led to imposition of the Governor's rule in Jammu and Kashmir on Saturday.

After two days of hectic political activity from Srinagar to New Delhi, a Raj Bhawan spokesperson said late on Saturday night that the State had been put under Governor’s rule.

"Consequent to the sudden passing away of Chief Minister Shri Mufti Mohammad Sayeed on 7th January 2016, the process to form government had commenced and intimations were still awaited about the respective positions of PDP and BJP. Considering the likelihood of some more time being taken before government can be formed, with the approval of the President of India, Governor’s Rule has been imposed in the State with effect from 8th January, 2016, under Section 92(1) of the Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir", the spokesperson said.

On Friday, Governor Narendra Nath Vohra had faxed a letter to PDP President Mehbooba Mufti and BJP's State President Sat Paul Sharma asking both to urgently clarify their parties' positions with regard to formation of the new government. Neither of the outgoing coalition partners responded to Raj Bhawan for over 24 hours. Consequently, Governor furnished a report to the Centre through President of India making it clear that under the circumstances only the imposition of Governor’s rule would break the constitutional impasse.

President's concurrence, after necessary approval of the Union government, came to Jammu late in the evening. Raj Bhawan subsequently issued a notification of the imposition of Governor’s rule for indefinite period. 

On Friday and Saturday, a team of senior bureaucrats including Chief Secretary Braj Raj Sharma and the deceased Chief Minister's Principal Secretary Bharat Bhushan Vyas camped in Srinagar and made sustained efforts to convince Ms Mufti that she should take oath of office and secrecy from Governor at an earliest so as to avoid imposition of Governor’s rule. Sources revealed to STATE TIMES that the bureaucrats were put on the job after New Delhi urged Governor to attempt an early transition of power without imposition of Governor’s rule. However, Ms Mufti, sources said, made it categorically clear to the bureaucrats, as well as to the coalition's leaders, that she would not take oath until the mourning at her home was over. She remained confined to her bedroom and granted meeting to only a few of her select guests who included BJP’s General Secretary Ram Madhav.

On Saturday, Ms Mufti met her father's aide Prof Amitabh Mattoo and later only two of her party’s leaders namely Muzaffar Hussain Baig (Lok Sabha member ) and Syed Altaf Bukhari (outgoing Works Minister). Among others, only her maternal uncle Sartaj Madni and nominated MLA Ms Anjum Fazili had access to her room.

Like on Friday, the guests at Mufti's Gupkar Road residence were attended by Mr Madni and other family members. With Ms Mufti remaining incommunicado and no response coming to the Raj Bhawan communication, Governor submitted his report to the Centre.

Even as the PDP leaders attributed the stalemate to Ms Mufti's disinclination to assume office during the mourning period, political quarters were rife with speculations that the PDP chief had "change of heart" with respect to continuing her party’s coalition with BJP. Quite a numberof her party colleagues have been expressing their dissatisfaction over PDP's alliance with BJP perceived to be under the influence of the extreme right wing groups like RSS. Sulking over "choking of funds from Delhi" and developments like BJP's covert campaign against Article 35A of the Constitution of India and the State flag, workers have cautioned the PDP leadership that the party was losing ground in its key constituency in Kashmir.

It has been noticed within the PDP that not more than 4,000 people participated in the Chief Minister’s funeral in his home town where more than 10,000 residents attended a slain militant’s last rites last month.

Fissures in the 10-month-long PDP-BJP alliance as also Ms Mufti's newfound chemistry towards Congress became evident with the Congress President Sonia Gandhi's visits to AIIMS where Mufti Mohammad Sayeed was under treatment for about a fortnight. On one occasion, Mrs Gandhi, in a typical Kashmiri pheran, kept waiting for Ms Mufti who had gone to J&K House, for over 30 minutes till she returned. Significantly, Sonia Gandhi, alongwith Ghulam Nabi Azad, is scheduled to visit Mufti's residence on the 4th day ceremony on Sunday.

Interestingly, union Home Minister Rajnath Singh and MoS in PMO Dr Jitendra Singh were the only BJP leaders who followed Mufti's coffin from New Delhi to Srinagar on Thursday. Prime Minister Narendra Modi returned from Pallam Airport after laying a wreath. Contrarily, entire who is who of the Central Government, including Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, had visited Srinagar on occasion of the funeral of the NC founder Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah whose mourning was attended by over 10 lakh Kashmiris in September 1982. Even on the day of the death of Sheikh’s wife Begum Akbar Jehan, Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, union Home Minister LK Advani and union Defence Minister George Fernandes visited Srinagar and paid tributes to the NC leader at Hazratbal.

Significantly, Congress leader and former Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, with MLAs Mohammad Yousuf Tarigami and Hakeem Yasin, was more conspicuously present at Mufti's funeral and thereafter than the BJP leaders. 

Even as some PDP and BJP leaders are still optimistic that Ms Mufti would take oath next week, form her government with BJP and carry forward her father's and Prime Minister Modi's "Agenda of Alliance", most of the political observers have perceived her new chemistry with Sonia Gandhi and Mr Azad. For them, today's imposition of Governor’s rule did signify "an end" to PDP's 10-month-long coalition with BJP. However, PDP's formation of the government with Congress is apparently impossible as the total number of PDP and Congress MLAs including all of their allies is only 43---one short of the required 44. The number of NC and BJP MLAs and their allies is also 43. So PDP's coalition with Congress is impossible unless it is either supported by NC or joined by independent MLA Pawan Gupta or Peoples Conference that has two MLAs.


[ Published in today's STATE TIMES ]

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