After two months of talks between the BJP and PDP over government formation in Jammu and Kashmir, the two political parties have resolved most differences over forming a coalition to rule the state for the next six years.
“The deal is sealed, and in the next week we will have a government,” a senior PDP leader confirmed to The Hindu . “We have held on to our core demands while moving forward on our shared aims of development and prosperity with the BJP in the state.”
“It is a great moment in the history of the BJP, and the day will be written in golden letters in the history of J&K,” senior BJP leader and National executive member, Nirmal Singh, who is expected to be the Deputy CM in the upcoming government in J&K, told The Hindu . According to sources, Mufti Sayeed will be the next Chief Minister of the state for the full term of six years in the BJP-PDP coalition, according to the agreement.
Since the Assembly election results announced a hung verdict in the last week of December last year, the two political parties had been engaged in talks with each other while ignoring all other options of coalition to form the government in the state.
However, sources close to the talks on both sides told The Hindu warn that the language over AFSPA (Armed Forces Special Powers Act) could still be a sticking point. During the first rounds of negotiation, the PDP had been adamant about a full withdrawal of the act,that has been criticised as a cover for human rights excesses in the state, while the BJP’s leadership said they would not interfere with an act the armed forces say they need. An encounter at Sopore on Saturday where two LeT militants were killed bolstered the BJP’s case for keeping security concerns paramount.
However, as negotiations progressed through the day, both sides softened their demands, with the PDP agreeing to discussions on a “phased withdrawal” of AFSPA, beginning with talks about areas of Jammu and Kashmir that the Army does not operate in. The BJP also has accepted the formulation on discussions over AFSPA, but insist on taking “security concerns” into the common minimum programme clause on the issue.
Party officials said the final text was being discussed in Jammu, and it would also go to the BJP’s top leadership and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. On the PDP side, Mr. Drabu flew back from Delhi to speak to Mr. Sayeed, and Ms. Mehbooba Mufti who have been in consultations with senior party leaders like Muzaffar Husain Beig and Naeem Akhtar before finally giving the green signal.
“We have not accepted their demand of removal of AFSPA in a year's time and have infact taken it out of a time frame into a situational frame; neither have we called the Art 370 as inviolable,” a senior BJP leader told The Hindu. “As for the WPR's, their rehabilitation will in the end be determined according to the legality and constitution but PDP has agreed that it should be seen from a humanitarian angle.”
Criticising the PDP for what he called “grandstanding”, however, former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah tweeted , "The PDP-BJP tie up was a done deal ages ago, all this was just Mufti (Mohammad) Sayeed's grandstanding as a tough guy to undo the damage in the Valley."