Is Peoples Democratic Party president, Mehbooba Mufti, going to dishonour her late father's decision by parting ways with the coalition in Jammu and Kashmir? In Kashmir, speculation is flying thick and fast as the suspense over government formation continues. Late on Sunday, PDP leaders met at the Muftis' Fairview residency at Gupkar Road in Srinagar where Mehbooba broke down, once again, seeking forgiveness for her father and telling the party leaders in a broken voice that she would need their support, more than before, in realising her late father's dreams.
“Everyone at the meeting, from MLAs to MPs, shed tears. Some were even crying,” a senior party leader told Firstpost, after the meeting was over, “But there was no talk of government formation. She is not in hurry.”
The delay in government formation, which brought the state under governor's rule last week, and the accompanying political uncertainty has unnerved BJP, which is holding a meeting of its party legislatures in winter capital Jammu on Monday. The meeting has been called to discuss the issue of having a rotational chief minister, an idea floated by two BJP MLAs when they met Ram Madhav recently in Srinagar.
Abdul Gani Kohli, a senior BJP state leader and the only Muslim face from BJP in the state Assembly, said on Sunday that it was the vision and statesmanship of Mufti Mohammad Sayeed that the two ideologically different parties came together, while confirming the meeting in Jammu.
“We will be discussing issues that demand immediate attention at this time,” Kohli said.
For the moment, the state of Jammu and Kashmir continues to be ruled by Governor NN Vohra, after Mehbooba Mufti’s reluctance to take oath after her father passed away in New Delhi on 7 November. The 79-year-old PDP patron was airlifted from Srinagar on 24 December and admitted to Aiims.
“No one knows for sure what is on her mind. She (Mehbooba) did not speak to any leader for three days. No one dared to go inside the house. She only met Ram Madhav and did not discuss a thing about government formation” a senior PDP party leader told Firstpost.
Union minister Nitin Gadkari and Congress president Sonia Gandhi also paid visit to Mufti’s residence on Sunday. Gadkari told reporters outside the residence that he had come to pay his condolences to the family.
"When I met Mufti sahab one month ago, we discussed many issues such as industrial and infrastructure development in the state. Even today when I met Mehboobaji, I assured her of all help and the fulfilment of expectations they have with the Government of India," Gadkari told reporters.
But, signalling a possible shift in tactics, senior PDP leader, Muzaffar Hussain Beg told Firstpost that whatever has happened in the past is history and it is time for the party to make a new beginning.
“His (Mufti’s) presence around us was comforting and assuring but his death is a great challenge for all of us. His passing away, however, has provided us with an opportunity to make a fresh start,” Beg told Firstpost. He said the alliance partners have to work hard to succeed, but he also hoped that Mehbooba will do better than her father.
On the speculations in media that BJP would be pushing for fresh bargain, Beg said he would be surprised because the issue has been already been discussed, “Why bargain for it again? Horses are not changed midway,” he said.
Political analyst Noor Mohammad Baba, however, says Mehbooba has played a political masterstroke but she could be hurt because of the behaviour of the BJP, whose leaders have been making noise about the ministerial berths and rotational chief ministership.
“By refusing to take oath immediately following the death of her father, which has happened in Farooq Abdullah's case previously, she has sent a signal that she is not after power and it makes no difference to her. Secondly, by not meeting her party leaders, she had conveyed to them indirectly that she is going to be much harder to deal with in coming days.” he said.
“There were people who had thought after Mufti, they will have an open field, that they can do whatever they want, especially the leaders who were given ministries for the first time, but she has proved them wrong,” he said.
Late on Sunday evening, at the PDP leaders' meet at Gupkar Road, Mehbooba told her party colleagues that she would need their support to carry on the legacy of Sayeed. “But not a single word was spoken on the (PDP-BJP) coalition. It seems she is not bothered about it at all. I would be surprised if the government is formed in the coming week,” a party leader, who attended the meeting, told Firstpost.