Uncertainty looms large on government formation in Jammu and Kashmir. Though some circles claim that a new government of hotchpotch coalition is likely to be installed in the state any time in September, there is no definite word on as who would lead the government. The speculations about the new government strengthened after recent claim by BJP’s general secretary and Kashmir point man Ram Madhav that his party would be part of the government in Jammu and Kashmir. Ram Madhav, last week, visited Srinagar and held meetings with several party leaders and MLAs. Ram met with his party ally Sajjad Lone too.
There are many a claimants/ aspirants of the chief minister’s post. Altaf Bukhari of PDP and Sajjad Lone of Peoples’ Conference (from Kashmir) are deemed as ‘front runners’. Bukhari is most likely to lead the rebel PDP MLAs who have agreed to be part of the new government. At least, 15 PDP MLAs are reported to have agreed to part ways with Mahbooba Mufti and elect Bukhari as their legislature party leader. Four Congress MLAs are also reported to have shown their inclination towards being part of the supposed new government. If the sources (privy to the development) are to be believed every MLA has been promised a seat in the council of ministers. The rebel MLCs of the PDP too are aspiring to occupying space in the state cabinet.
BJP, however, is silently acting on a plan to get its own man installed as the chief minister. Minister of state in Prime Minister’s Office, Dr Jitendra Raina is the BJP favourite. A BJP (Hindu) chief minister in a Muslim-majority state would be a big boost for the party ahead of next year’s general elections. For having failed to keep its election promises made in 2014, BJP is looking for some emotional issue to woo back the Indian voter. While five PDP MLAs who have rebelled against Mahbooba Mufti publicly are not averse to any chief minister from BJP, other “rebel” MLAs from the valley, however, have serious reservations. They believe that supporting BJP’s agenda of Hindu chief minister would cost them heavily. That is making the formation of the new government a difficult proposition.
In disagreement between the BJP and PDP (rebel), the two-member party chief Sajjad Lone perceives a chance for himself. Sajjad’s dream of becoming the chief minister is for two reasons. First, no PDP or BJP MLA wants to go back to the electorate for fresh elections. Second, Governor’s rule for prolonged period too is not an option before New Delhi. In such a scenario, in his estimation, there is enough chance for him to emerge as alternate choice. He is reported to have held meetings with several PDP MLAs and sought their help.
Sources, however, said that with the exception of five MLAs and two MLCs, who have publicly revolted against Mahbooba Mufti, he has not got any solid assurance from other MLAs. They change their mind every 10 minutes.
BJP too is not keen to see Sajjad Lone as chief minister. A strong lobby in the party believes that it would give rise to many questions for the party at national level. They say that ahead of next year’s general elections the BJP cannot afford any messy situation in Jammu and Kashmir. “If the state needed a chief minister from the valley only why Mahbooba was toppled then and the state was plunged into serious crisis” is a question that would be posed to the BJP even by its own cadres. BJP cadres think that there is a chance for their party to pitch for its own chief minister. But where are the numbers and wherefrom these will come is something that haunts the party leadership.
Mahbooba Mufti, for her part, too is scheming to sabotage the efforts of breaking her party. Sources say that Muzaffar Beig’s name as another possible choice as PDP’s chief ministerial candidate was floated by her loyalists to confuse the “rebels”. It is pertinent to mention that five PDP MLAs who raised the banner of revolt against Mahbooba Mufti includes Muzaffar Baig’s nephew Javed Baig too. The MP Baig is reported to be “popular” with some more PDP MLAs also. By floating his name as ‘aspirant’ chief minister, the ‘rebels’ are confused as which way to go.