Srinagar: Talks underway between Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) and ideologically-divergent Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to end political stalemate and form new government in Jammu and Kashmir have witnessed “striking” progress but there has been no breakthrough as such.
A senior BJP leader from the State who requested anonymity as he is not authorised to speak to media on the issue said that its central leadership including Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, strongly favours strengthening of ties with the PDP and has sent negotiators word of encouragement. “It is because of their interest, positivity and encouragement that the talks have finally made some important progress which is very striking," he said.
Sources in the PDP confirmed the talks have progressed but insisted that there has not been any breakthrough as yet. “Our party president (Mehbooba Mufti) is keen on getting unambiguous assurances that the vision and mission of Mufti Sahib will be carried forward and implemented in letter and spirit”, a party leader said adding that though the BJP leadership has told Ms. Mufti that ‘Agenda of the Alliance’, the common minimum programme worked out for government formation last year, already covers her concerns and demands and that the same is to be implemented during the PDP-BJP six year rule, she has reiterated that the Centre should initiate Jammu and Kashmir specific CBMs before the formation of government.
PDP president wants fresh engagement on the terms of the alliance for political reasons. Kashmir watchers say that since she has virtually burnt all boats by publicly stating that the PDP is not disinclined to form the government but would not do it unless she receives ‘clear-cut and concrete’ assurances from the alliance partner, the assurances on the rider she must have already spelt out before the BJP leadership have to come publicly. Neither PDP nor its leader can afford any undercover engagement even if ‘benevolence’ is symbolic and just for face-saving. It is learnt that the BJP has agreed to take a few steps towards making its alliance partner look better in the situation.
BJP’s national general secretary and one of the architects of the PDP-BJP alliance Ram Madhav is likely to meet Ms. Mufti at the weekend to take the bilateral agenda forward. Both BJP and PDP are optimistic about the outcome of proposed meeting. Senior BJP leaders from the State on Thursday held detailed discussions with the party high command in New Delhi where they were told that the latter wants to continue the alliance in the national interest and to ensure ‘vikas’ or development of Jammu and Kashmir as envisioned by Prime Minister Mr. Modi.
Though several BJP leaders from J&K including some lawmakers have opposed any surrender by the party, the dominant view in the BJP is that breaking alliance with the PDP would only be detrimental to its interests in present circumstances. More importantly, some BJP leaders from the State have reportedly told the party high command, repeating its stupendous performance propelled by the clean sweep in Jammu region in the November-December 2014 Assembly elections would be a task impossible to achieve again if snap polls are held in the State. While National Conference (NC) has categorically stated that there would be no truck with the BJP and that if the PDP-BJP alliance fail to form new government fresh elections should be held at earliest, the Congress party says that the mandate thrown up by the last elections was to sit in opposition for it.
The sources in the BJP also said that its alma mater RSS is also in favour of continuing alliance with the BJP and has given green signal to show “altruism” on issues which are not contentious in their nature or tantamount to iconoclasm and also on those which purely involve financial management and incentives.
In this backdrop, the Centre may come up with certain economic incentives if not a comprehensive package for the State. Also, it might agree to relocating certain camps of the security forces particularly in Kashmir Valley to minimize their physical presence in populated areas. The Centre is also likely to comment itself to expedite the process of evaluating and paying compensation for lakhs of acres of land under illegal occupation of Army and other central security forces across the State.
It may also agree to revisit the issue of returning the power projects presently under National Hydel Power Corporation (NHPC) to the State and, at least, reconsider its “unilaterally trimming” from the Prime Minister’s ‘development package’ the equity assured to the state for buying back two power projects from the NHPC that had received clearance from the PMO.
The sources said that the BJP leadership has already acknowledged the PDP’s concern that fiddling with the State’s special status, guaranteed by Article 370 of the Constitution, by certain individuals associated with the Sangh Parivar and raising of contentious issues like State Flag by some BJP lawmakers including ministers have only caused embarrassment to its alliance partner in its bastion-Kashmir Valley. The PDP leadership may, therefore, be assured that none from the BJP would indulge in such pastime in future.
Meanwhile, a delegation of BJP led by its J&K unit president Satpal Sharma on Friday met Governor, N.N. Vohra in Raj Bhavan, Jammu to discuss the government formation issue and overall political situation in the State. The BJP had sought ten days time during its leaders’ previous meeting with the Governor on February 2 to make up its mind on government formation. It is learnt that the party delegation on Friday sought some more time from Mr. Vohra as the talks with the PDP have progressed. “Besides (holding) discussion on the political situation the BJP delegation brought to Governor’s notice several important issues of public interest, including disbursement of relief to PoK refugees, construction of shelters for people affected by firing from across the border, macadamisation of roads in Jammu city and conduct of municipal elections,” a statement issued by Raj Bhavan said.