Politics sprung to life in Jammu and Kashmir on Wednesday when it became known that the Congress, the National Conference, and the Peoples Democratic Party are in talks to form a new state government. This will have a direct impact on national politics. If this bold move succeeds, it will be a feather in the cap of Congress president Rahul Gandhi, who has apparently been involved in organising it. A major meeting of Congress party leaders was held in Jammu last Sunday. Other meetings are set to have taken place much further afield.
There can be no doubting the legitimacy, and the political logic of an alignment of these three parties. They all stand for secular politics, and the issue they have held up as the banner under which they stand together is the special status of this state. If such a formation takes office, the Opposition will be able to claim, in the run-up to the national General Election, that regional parties have stood firm in states all the way from Kashmir to Kanyakumari against the juggernaut of the BJP's rise.
It is up to the Centre now, through Governor Satya Pal Malik, to either dissolve the Assembly or let this sort of government be formed. Of course, there is still a possibility that the BJP might try to form a government in tandem with Sajjad Lone of the People's Conference, and breakaway factions of these parties. Lone has the open support of BJP general secretary Ram Madhav, who visited the state a few days ago to have breakfast at a public event with the new mayor of Srinagar, and other top leaders and associates of Lone's party.
The trilateral alignment has come as something of a googly for the Centre. Malik will have to take tough decisions. Having said more than once that he will not indulge in foul play or encourage horse-trading, he is in a tough spot.
This alignment appeared to have the support of at least half a dozen PDP MLAs, five of whom publicly addressed a press conference in July, quite soon after the BJP withdrew support to the PDP-led state government of which it had been a part since early 2015. The key MLA in that dissident group of PDP MLAs is Imran Ansari, who is arguably the ranking Shia leader in the state. In that capacity, he has pockets of dependable support in several constituencies other than the two he and his cousin directly hold.
There is also talk of attempts to wean away breakaway factions from the legislative parties of the NC and the Congress.
Where Omar Abdullah fits in
NC leader and former chief minister Omar Abdullah is set to have been reluctant to back the PDP and the Congress to form the government — at least until Rahul spoke to him. While Omar appears to have come around to supporting a PDP-Congress coalition, it seems certain that the NC won't participate in the government. Those who back this alignment say that, given the way the politics in the state has played out since the BJP withdrew support to the PDP, a coalition of the Congress with either the NC or the PDP, or both, would almost certainly come together after the next state elections. "Why not try it already?" one of them asked.
Omar's father Farooq Abdullah, who too has been chief minister and now heads the party, is said to have been more readily agreeable to the proposed arrangement. However, he apparently refused to take charge as the chief minister — as PDP president Mehbooba Mufti is said to have proposed. Omar — and many others — would probably still prefer that the proposal pushes the Centre to dissolve the Assembly rather than allow the three parties to block the plan about which Lone and Madhav are enthusiastic. In fact, Omar has called for the dissolution of the Assembly ever since the day the BJP withdrew support to the PDP.
Updated Date: Nov 21, 2018 19:59 PM