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Wednesday, January 13, 2016

BJP in the dark as Mehbooba holds everything to her chest

Ram Madhav holds meeting with BJP legislators in Jammu

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz
JAMMU, Jan 12: With nobody discussing politics in the PDP camp and the bereaved Mehbooba Mufti holding everything to her chest, BJP continues to be groping in the dark with ragard to the prospects of government formation in Jammu and Kashmir.

Since the day of Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s death on January 7th, none of her political colleagues has mustered courage to discuss the political issue of the government formation with Ms Mufti. Few of her guests who called on her with a political agenda, including a high level bureaucratic team led by Chief Secretary B.R. Sharma and BJP's J&K incharge Ram Madhav, returned upset as Ms Mufti told them categorically that there would be nothing political during the mourning period post her father's death.

Neither of them did even ask if the mourning period would be over with the official ritual on the 7th day or would run according to the religious practice till 15th or 40th day. And when the party spokesman Mehboob Beg was quoted by news agencies and television channels as saying that Ms Mufti's oath-taking would take place immediately after the 7th day, he was rebuked for "exceeding your brief".

Beg told STATE TIMES that he wanted to say nothing beyond the fact that Ms Mufti would discuss the government formation with her party leaders, legislators and workers only after the mourning period was over at her home. "I said only this much that after her deliberations with the cadres, following the end of the mourning period, Madam would take the final call. But unfortunately a section of the media quoted me as saying that Ms Mufti’s oath-taking would take place in the next 24 hours. How could I give a timeframe when neither the mourning period is over nor has there been any discussion on political issues in the PDP?", Dr Beg asserted.

"As of now, there's absolutely no political activity in PDP or at Mufti Sahab's residence. It's a solemn and sombre ambience and everybody calls on the bereaved family only to offer condolences", Dr Beg said.

According to the family sources, just a few of the PDP leaders, like Muzaffar Hussain Baig, Naeem Akhtar and Altaf Bukhari, have been able to see Ms Mufti and they all avoided discussing politics with her. Among others, only her maternal uncle Sartaj Madni, Mufti's close relative and MLA Syed Farooq Andrabi and her aide and nominated MLA Anjum Fazili have had access to the bereaved party President.

One of the senior leaders said on condition of anonymity that the government formation "if at all it happens with BJP" could take two or three weeks from now. "As of now, nobody in PDP is on record to say that the party would yet again form the government with BJP. Even the possibility of fresh elections does exist at this stage as nobody knows what would be the final call of the President", he said. He, however, ruled out possibility of a coalition with Congress or NC.

In Jammu, BJP camp witnessed some activity on Tuesday as the two leaders from the party high command, namely Ram Madhav and Avinash Rai Khanna, appeared in the winter capital and held a meeting with their State leaders and legislators at the former Deputy Chief Minister Nirmal Singh’s house. The participants discussed prospects of BJP's forming the government with its former coalition partner besides the senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad's clarification that Sonia Gandhi or her party had no ambition or intention to form the coalition with PDP.

The meeting, according to sources, discussed BJP's demand of rotational Chief Minister and two more Cabinet berths. However, it was decided that only the party high command would take a decision whether to press such demands with PDP or not.

After the meeting concluded, the BJP Central leaderd told journalists that their party would respond to the PDP communication only after it elected a leader and conveyed it to the former coalition ally BJP. They asserted that there was no difference of opinion with PDP but the process of the government formation had got delayed as the PDP was still in the mourning and it was yet to choose its leader.


Azad: No question of Congress government formation with PDP

'We visited Srinagar purely out of respect for Mufti Sahab. There's absolutely nothing political in it'

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

JAMMU, Jan 11: Leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha, senior Congress leader and former Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad on Monday set aside all speculations of the PDP-Congress government formation in Jammu and Kashmir while asserting that the All India Congress Committee President Sonia Gandhi's visit to Srinagar on Sunday was "purely personal".

"There's absolutely nothing political in it. Sonia ji (alongwith Mr Azad and Ambika Soni) called on the bereaved family purely out of our respect and emotional bondage of several decades with Mufti Sahab", Azad told STATE TIMES by telephone from New Delhi. 

"Congress has absolutely no ambition or intention of forming the government with PDP which has been and continues to be a constituent of the coalition with BJP. There's no question of the Congress government formation with PDP in Jammu and Kashmir", Azad added without equivocation. "Unfortunately, some people are reading too much in our visit to Mufti Sahab's residence where we went simply with our condolences for the bereaved family", he asserted.

Azad said that he himself, as well as Sonia Gandhi and Ambika Soni, had "decades of personal and emotional bondage" with Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, his wife and daughter Mehbooba. "We were deeply shocked on learning about his ill health and subsequently death. So we called on him at AIIMS. I was on Umra in Saudi Arabia where I prayed for his recovery. But he passed away next day. After I returned, we decided to visit Srinagar and paid our homage to Mufti Sahab on occasion of his Rasm-e-Chaharum".

Asked why the BJP top brass, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the party President Amit Shah, stayed back in New Delhi and only the Congress top brass visited Srinagar, Azad said: "BJP has strictly a relationship of political convenience with PDP. There's nothing emotional in it. Contrarily, we in Congress have personal and emotional bondage of several decades with the Mufti family. That's perhaps why they stood back in Delhi and we went all the way to Srinagar to pay our tributes and condolences", Azad said.

Asked what precisely were the prospects of the new government formation in Jammu and Kashmir, Azad said Mehbooba Mufti would "most likely" fill the shoes of her father and form her government in coalition with BJP. 


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 ]