How alliances have fared in Jammu and Kashmir

New Delhi: Cracks have developed in the ruling alliance of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) following chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s death last week, according to news reports.

While the PDP has unanimously supported its party president and Sayeed’s daughter Mehbooba Mufti as its choice for the state’s chief minister, the BJP is reported to have proposed a “rotational chief-ministership formula”, where both parties take turns to govern the state. The BJP’s proposal has been rejected by Mufti and the PDP, according to television news reports over the weekend.

On Saturday, the central government imposed governor’s rule in Jammu and Kashmir—the seventh time the state has come under direct central rule and the third since N.N. Vohra became its governor in 2003.

The reason for the state government’s failure to appoint a successor to Sayeed was Mufti’s reluctance to take oath as chief minister during the four-day mourning period following her father’s death, according to a Press Trust of India report.

With a history of central government interventions, difficulties surrounding government formation are not new to the sensitive border state.

Its very first government was dismissed.

The National Conference (NC) party, which has led six governments in Jammu and Kashmir, formed the first government in 1948, when its founder Sheikh Abdullah took oath as the state’s ‘Prime Minister’ on 5 March. His term lasted the full five years before his government was dismissed in 1953 on grounds of “conspiracy against India”.

It was the NC which sowed the seeds of coalition politics in the state, when it allied with the Congress during the 1987 assembly elections, widely reported to be have been rigged. The phase also saw a spike in militancy in the state and led to the exodus of over 300,000 Hindus—called Kashmiri Pandits. The NC-Congress coalition, led by the Sheikh’s son Farooq Abdullah, lasted till 1990 before it was dismissed by the central government.

The state was placed under governor’s rule till 1996.

Jammu and Kashmir, whose legislators are elected for a period of six years, saw its second coalition government in 2002, when the newly-formed PDP and Congress party came together. Even though the NC emerged as the single largest party in the state, it was alliance that formed the government—with a three-year rotational chief minister formula tried out for the first time. Sayeed was chief minister for the first three years from 2002 to 2005, while Ghulam Nabi Azad of the Congress took control for the remaining period.

In 2008, the third chapter of Jammu and Kashmir’s coalition era began, this time with the NC—led by Farooq Abdullah’s son Omar Abdullah—once again in an alliance with the Congress. The Congress, by virtue of its performance (17 seats), emerged kingmaker and was in a position to ally with either the PDP (21 seats) or NC (28 seats). It chose the NC and backed Omar Abdullah, who at 39 became the youngest chief minister of the state.

That government successfully lasted its full term of six years before the state delivered a region-based split verdict in assembly elections held in 2015. While a majority of voters from the Kashmir valley elected the PDP (28 seats) as their preferred party, Hindu-dominated Jammu region opted for the BJP (25 seats), with the NC (15 seats) and Congress (12 seats) taking the third and fourth spots, respectively.

The deadlock was resolved when the two ideologically opposite parties—the liberal PDP and right-wing BJP, representing the mandates of their respective regions—came together to form a government under the leadership of Sayeed. A common minimum programme with a focus on development was drawn up as the basis of this unusual but pragmatic alliance.

Sayeed died in a Delhi hospital on 7 January following multiple organ failure.

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