There is no end in sight to the uncertainty surrounding government formation in Jammu and Kashmir. The State has been without an elected government for more than two months. But that has not stopped either the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) or the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) from playing hardball. Reports suggest that the PDP is unhappy with the BJP’s “misrepresentations of the conditions” agreed between the erstwhile allies. The Kashmir-based party insists that it has come up with no new conditions for government formation. Meanwhile, the BJP has argued that it’s the PDP which keeps bringing up new conditions to the table. The BJP had earlier said that it will not accept any demands and that the government cannot be formed under duress. Senior BJP leader and key interlocutor Ram Madhav categorically said that “whatever fresh needs to be done should be done after government formation”. “The first thing is that no new demand is acceptable to us and the second thing is that if there are new demands then it can be taken up once a new government takes over,” he said. In response to the deadlock, Mehbooba is likely to call a meeting of senior PDP leaders in the coming days to clear “misgivings” on the deadlock. Initial reports had suggested that some positive headway was made in the meeting between Mehbooba and BJP president Amit Shah on Thursday. But there was no end to the deadlock and matters have only gone downhill since. The state was put under Governor’s Rule on January 8, a day after the death of incumbent Chief Minister and PDP patron Mufti Mohammad Sayeed passed away. If the deadlock over government formation continues, Governor NN Vohra will have no option but to dissolve and Assembly and recommend the holding of fresh Assembly elections. According to Section 53 of the State constitution, the Governor is bound to dissolve the assembly if more than six months lapse between the last sitting and first sitting of two sessions of the legislature. The last sitting of the assembly was held on October 10 last year. Time is running out for both sides.
The overarching narrative suggests a serious trust deficit between both sides. Media reports on the ongoing game political intrigue have construed these recent events as an attempt to put pressure on the BJP to walk the “extra mile”, as the PDP seeks to reaffirm its voter base in the Kashmir Valley. When the PDP joined hands with the BJP a year back, reports had emerged that voters in the Valley were unhappy at the decision. A senior PDP leader admitted to this very fact. “The decision to align with BJP was most unpopular, but we will stand by it, provided the agenda of the alliance is implemented,” he said. “There is trust deficit and that needs to be worked out”. However, the BJP is losing patience with its erstwhile coalition partner. Leaders in the State BJP united have construed the uncertainty surrounding the coalition’s fate as a means to “arm-twist” the party into “accepting conditions” that are not part of the previous arrangement. Questions over political office aside, the past year was anything but smooth sailing for the coalition government. Ideological differences between the two sides had come to the fore on hot-button issues in the state, with economic development left in the background. From the revival of the beef ban to the death of a Kashmiri trucker, who was attacked over rumours that his vehicle was transporting cows for slaughter, both parties have stood apart on either side of the ideological divide. With both sides playing to their respective constituencies, it is abundantly clear that any attempt by the PDP to address separatist concerns within the political framework of the Indian Constitution has only created more rifts between the two parties. Even on the issue of greater compensation to flood victims, the Centre’s delayed response did raise suspicions of whether the amount received was fair or adequate. There is no denying that both sides could join hands again and embark on a fresh start. Meanwhile, the citizens of the State are tired of these games and have seemingly lost interest in the outcome. Their lives have not seen any visible improvement. The promise of the first BJP-PDP alliance has seemingly withered away. The political intrigue is only going to grow further.