Jammu and Kashmir governor Satya Pal Malik late Wednesday evening ordered the dissolution of state Assembly, paving the way for fresh elections. This move came hours after former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti and People's Conference chairman Sajjad Gani Lone both staked a claim to form the government. In a press communiqué, the governor said he was ordering the dissolution of Assembly through the powers vested in him under Section 53 of the Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir.
As per the communiqué issued by the governor it was noted, “In exercise of the powers conferred under clause (b) of sub-section (2) of section 53 of the constitution of Jammu and Kashmir the Governor was dissolving the Legislative Assembly. By virtue of the powers vested upon me in terms of proclamation no: P1/18 of 2018 dated 20 June 2018 issued under sub-section (1) of section 92 and in exercise of the powers conferred upon me by clause (b) of sub-section (2) of section-53 of the constitution of Jammu and Kashmir, I hereby dissolve the Legislative Assembly.”
The Assembly was under suspended animation after BJP pulled support from the PDP and brought Mehbooba's government. The two coalition partners had major differences, including the state's constitutional position and the “way the militancy could be tackled.” The BJP has accused PDP of being soft towards “stone pelters” and was seeking abrogation of the state law that bars outsiders from owning property or contesting elections.
The PDP chief earlier wrote to the governor staking a claim to form the government. In a letter addressed to Malik, she said the PDP, with the support of NC and Congress, will form the government. However, during the day Lone also the governor a letter claiming the support of BJP and 18 other MLAs for formation of a government.
In the 87-member legislative Assembly, the PDP, Congress and NC have respectively the strength of 28, 12 and 15 MLAs. The strength of BJP in the Assembly was 25 while as Lone had 2 MLAs. Forty-four MLAs were required for an absolute majority and to form the government. Lone was seeking to cobble together a third front with PDP MP and former deputy chief minister Muzafar Hussain Baigh. Some PDP MLAs, including former minister Imran Ansari, and Zadibal MLA Abid Ansari openly criticised Mehbooba for “promoting favouritism in the party.”
With the dissolution of the Assembly, the governor would have to order polls within six months. Although the government conducted municipal polls and has already held two phases of panchayat polls, most wards were returned uncontested. Both the NC and PDP boycotted the polls against what they termed as “efforts to abrogate Article 35-A” of the Constitution which deprives outsiders from owning property in Jammu and Kashmir.
Mehbooba also tweeted that the fax at the Raj Bhawan was not working. Mehbooba said that she was trying to contact the governor on phone, but he was unavailable. Officials at the Raj Bhawan remained unavailable for comment.
The order to dissolve the Assembly evoked a sharp reaction in Kashmir. Former chief minister Omar Abdullah wrote on Twitter, “JKNC has been pressing for dissolution for 5 months now. It can’t be a coincidence that within few minutes of Mehbooba Mufti's letter staking claim the order to dissolve the Assembly suddenly appears.” He earlier tweeted, “J and K Raj Bhawan needs a new fax machine urgently.”
Peoples Democratic Front (PDF) chairman Hakeem Yaseen said the dissolution of the Assembly was an “undemocratic exercise.” He added, “The governor should have allowed the parties to prove the majority in the legislative Assembly.” Earlier in the day, Yaseen said he was ready to support the PDP, NC and Congress combine.
Former chief minister Ghulam Nabi Azad called the meeting of the Congress leaders on Friday to “discuss the modalities for the government formation in the state.” Senior PDP leader Altaf Bukhari also met Omar before Mehbooba wrote the letter staking the claim to form the government.
Updated Date: Nov 21, 2018 22:39 PM