February 16, 2015 10:44 pm

PDP-BJP Govt: Roadblock or Minor Hiccup?

PM Modi to take final call on government formation

NEW DELHI: The ongoing talks between |BJP and PDP over formation of new government in the state have run aground.

The two parties have been engaged in back channel talks ever since state elected a hung assembly on December 23 last year to come together and form the new government.

However, both sides are saying that talks are continuing and finalisation of CMP and efforts are on to form a government soon. Last week, there were reports that a government will be formed before the forthcoming Budget Session of Parliament begins on February 23.

Chief Spokesman of PDP Naeem Akthar said the talks are continuing and "I can say that there are more areas of convergence than differences and efforts have been intensified to iron out these differences."

Sources privy to the developments said that PDP wants written assurance that it will not rake up the Article 370 which will be included in the CMP, a decision which BJP is finding difficult to agree upon and has asked the regional party whether it would like to give any assurance on its "self-rule" policy.

Once CMP is finalised by the two sides, the sources said, a structured dialogue between the two sides will begin and will be followed by sealing of the deal by PDP patron Mufti Mohammed Sayeed and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Talks between the two parties also got marred over semantics of dealing with the contentious Armed Forces Special Power Act (AFSPA) that gives armed forces unbridled power to arrest anyone without warrants.

While BJP prefers to use gradual withdrawal of AFSPA in the common minimum programme the two parties are negotiating, PDP wants the word revocation to be used.

The two parties have already agreed that with the PDP founder Mufti Mohammad Sayeed would function as the chief minister of the coalition government for its entire six-year tenure, BJP leader Nirmal Singh would be designated as the deputy chief minister.

However well placed sources said, the talks on government formation have not hit a roadblock but were witnessing minor hiccups, mainly on the choice of "language" that would be used for  sensitive issues like Article 370 and AFSPA.

However, in view of the existing and potential resentment from sections of their respective parties and in the case of the BJP also from the RSS, both the BJP and the PDP want to be extra careful while finalizing the draft of their CMP. Also, given the political sensibilities in Jammu and Kashmir particularly Kashmir Valley, the PDP has sought to make the CMP public before the two sides formally announce cobbling up of an alliance to form the new government officially,

The coming together of the two ideologically-opposed parties was being viewed as logical, considering the two parties were favoured by Jammu and Kashmir voters, albeit through a fractured mandate.

While PDP with 28 seats had emerged the second largest party in the 87-member assembly, BJP with 25 seats finished a credible second. However, in terms of the votes, BJP with 23 per cent votes was first choice of the voters while PDP lagged fractionally behind by polling 22.7 votes.

Interestingly, votes for the two parties were geographically divided and the two sides joining hands would have given the entire state proper representation. BJP won all its seats in the Hindu-majority Jammu region while PDP emerged favourite among Muslims in the Kashmir Valley.

BJP had put the process of government formation in the state on hold until after the recently concluded Delhi assembly polls fearing compromising on one of its core issues Article 370 may anger Delhi’s Hindu voters. This did not prevent the BJP’s battering at the hands of the Aam Aadmi Party with BJP winning just three of the 70 seats in Delhi and AAP bagging the remaining 67 seats.

BJP has also been put in an uncomfortable position by its ideological fountainhead, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), which has warned the party against compromising on its core issues merely to form government in India’s only Muslim majority state.

PDP chief Mehbooba Sayeed is believed to have conveyed her party’s stand on Article 370 and AFSPA to the BJP president Amit Shah when she came over to attend Shah’s son’s wedding reception on Sunday.

Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s planned meeting with senior BJP leaders including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, scheduled for Monday, has now been put on the hold. BJP sources said that the party has left it to Modi to take the final call on PDP’s twin demands.

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