*As talks between the two enter final stage, Baig tells party legislators that a tie-up with BJP should not be a taboo as PDP is an Indian mainstream party
*Meeting with Omar Abdullah on cards on his return from London, says BJP’s Kashmir in charge Ramesh Arora
* Advani convinces Mufti about government formation, says a PDP leader
Srinagar: Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) said on Sunday that People’s Democratic Party (PDP) has accepted the three conditions it had said would form the basis of any tie-up for government formation in the state.
Ramesh Arora, BJP’s in charge of Kashmir affairs, told Kashmir Reader the three conditions—no compromise on sovereignty and national integrity, development and balanced development of all regions of the state—have been conveyed to the PDP.
“There is no question of disagreement and they have accepted all the three terms,” Arora said.
Government formation is stuck in limbo since December 23 when elections results were declared. No party got near to the figure of 44 seats in the 87-member Assembly to stake claim to the government. With 28 seats, the highest, PDP emerged as the largest party and was offered support by both Congress (12 seats) and NC (15 seats), but it seems to have made up its mind to ally with the BJP (25 seats, all in Jammu) which is ruling at the Centre and holds the purse strings.
Two days after the verdict, Union finance minister Arun Jaitley had told a press conference that any party interested in a tie-up with the saffron party has to accept the three conditions Arora said have been conveyed to the PDP, ahead of the formal talks that are expected to begin between the two parties within three days.
During campaigning, the PDP told the electorate that they must vote in large numbers to prevent BJP from coming to power. Now caught in an awkward situation where it has to align with the same party, the PDP has been buying time to make the tie-up palatable to its supporters.
Reportedly, it has also set five conditions before the BJP during informal talks. The conditions are respect for its self-rule proposal and resumption of dialogue with Pakistan, revocation of Armed Forces Special Powers Act from peaceful areas, strengthening of Article 370, full tenure for Mufti Muhammad Sayeed as CM and a comprehensive economic rehabilitation package for the flood-hit people of the state.
The BJP has already said that it is Indian foreign ministry’s domain to decide on a dialogue with Pakistan and coalition compulsions cannot dictate such terms. Besides, Arora said that “contentious issues” such as AFSPA, self-rule and Article 370 will have no space in the agenda of the next government.
In such a situation, both parties have put these issues on the backburner, even though that does not stop them from making symbolic noise about these issues.
According to Arora, BJP top brass held a meeting with PDP patron Mufti Mohammad Sayeed about government formation. He, however, refused to tell the details about the meeting.
“Problem doesn’t lie in shaping modalities or the Common Minimum Program but within the PDP. That party is scared of facing resentment for its tie-up with BJP. Now, PDP has asked its newly-elected legislators to get feedback from their constituencies but be assured there will be no governor’s rule in the state. We’ll announce the agreement before the deadline,” he said. The current coalition’s term expires on January 19.
At the same time, Arora said, his party has kept open the option of aligning with National Conference and would be holding a meeting with outgoing CM Omar Abdullah once he returns from London.
Grudgingly accepting the unfolding reality, a PDP leader, who requested anonymity because he is not authorised to speak to the media, said, “The tricky situation has forced us to ally with the BJP. But Mufti sahib doesn’t want to be merely a nominal head.”
“He wants to deliver something for which electorate voted him. He wants to ensure whatever the BJP promises this time, they should deliver once the government is formed,” the leader said.
However, the leader said the party is in dilemma as both in opposition or in power, it is the PDP which is cut both ways.
“LK Advani talked to Mufti sahib and convinced him about the government formation. When some legislators raised their apprehensions about PDP-BJP coalition, Muzaffar Hussain Baig convinced them,” the leader said.
According to the leader, Baig told his party legislators that the PDP is an Indian mainstream party and there should be no objection to a tie-up with the BJP.
“However, the tie-up has long-term ramifications for the party. Our party won’t have to talk about self-rule, Indo-Pak relations or Article 370. That way, it’s a tightrope walk for our party,” the leader said.