Mehbooba Mufti renogotiates terms with BJP for government formation

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Mehbooba as new CM of J&K
Waiting in the wings J&K CM’s daughter Mehbooba Mufti is a flamboyant politician. Photo: Faisal Khan

People’s Democratic Party (PDP) president Mehbooba Mufti seems to have read the writing on the wall (low attendance at the Mufti’s cortège) and decided to hold back from forming a government with the BJP.

On 2 February when Mehbooba met Governor NN Vohra on government formation, she said she wanted announcements on the CBMs from the Centre and not from the BJP as the issue was not between the PDP and the BJP. Whether it was beef ban or Article 370 (special status to Jammu and Kashmir), the PDP has sought an assurance from Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself on these issues.

While the BJP, represented by party state chief Sat Sharma, sought 10 days time from Vohra to take a final call on the issue, a section of the Central leadership is not happy with the recent developments in which Mehbooba has demanded assurances from the BJP.

“What has happened in the past 10 months that she wants to talk terms again?” asked a senior state BJP leader. “The BJP sticks by the agenda, and is unwilling to be arm-twisted in this fashion.”

A sore BJP sent a low-level leader Nirmal Singh to the PDP, as interlocutor, and Mehbooba sought new assurances and demanded confidence building measures (CBMs).

Mehbooba received Singh at the state guesthouse in Jammu hoping against hope that he would carry a missive from New Delhi. Singh came empty-handed, and the 15-minute meeting was nothing but a courtesy call. It was Singh’s silence that angered Mehbooba, who decided to then and there ask the BJP to come up with a new deal.

Singh said that the BJP would adhere to the Agenda of Alliance. He said the BJP was for the alliance along with the PDP. Singh said the alliance was for a period of six years and that the party wanted it to continue.

Nobody’s sure if the alliance that led the state in the past 10 months even exists. It is largely spoken in political circles that the coalition died a glorious death along with the Mufti.

What Mehbooba stated publicly, she had privately conveyed to top BJP and central government leaders weeks ago through BJP general secretary Ram Madhav.

A source close to Mehbooba said, “She has been waiting to respond for a long time. We have been wondering aloud if the BJP is serious about its commitments to the PDP and the people of Kashmir.”