Mehbooba Mufti on Saturday staked claim to power in Jammu and Kashmir after Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) informed the Governor that it was ready to support the PDP chief as the first woman Chief Minister of the state.
However, the date for the swearing-in ceremony has not been decided as yet because the two coalition partners are still discussing ministerial portfolios which leaders of the two parties said would be resolved soon. “We have to discuss it with our coalition partner. Once we are done with it, a date for swearing-in would be announced,” Mehbooba Mufti told reporters after she met Governor N.N.Vohra along with Nirmal Singh, BJP’s nominee for the post of Deputy Chief Minister.
While BJP was scheduled to be represented by its state president Sat Pal Sharma, Deputy Chief Minister designate Dr. Nirmal Singh and MP Jugal Kishore, but at the last minute, only Dr. Nirmal Singh met the governor. PDP had proposed the oath taking day on April 4, but BJP is yet to respond due to disagreement over portfolios.
Senior PDP leaders and party MPs Muzaffar Hussain Beigh and Tariq Hamid Karra accompanied Mehbooba to Governor’s residence in Jammu to signal that party stood behind her decision to realign with BJP after a nearly three-month-long break. Karra and Beigh were vocal opponents of their party forming a ruling coalition with the ideologically opposed BJP.
The alliance was on the brink of a collapse after Sayeed died in a Delhi hospital on January 7. A day later, Jammu and Kashmir came under the Governor’s rule when a bereaved Mehbooba refused to take the oath as Chief Minister. She continued dragging her feet over the government formation and wanted the BJP-led Central Government to redraw the terms of alliance her father had authored.
However, the BJP refused to give fresh concessions to Mehbooba. An agreement was reached only when she met Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Delhi. The two partners are now ready to govern the state again, even as the portfolio issue still hung fire. Mehbooba, however, denied the issue was causing the delay in holding the swearing-in ceremony.
“Portfolios are not important. That is something we can sit together and sort out. It is a coalition government. The BJP’s portfolios are ours and ours portfolios are of the BJP,” she said, smilingly though. She added that this would be decided soon and new government would be office. “We are not going to take too much days. We are working out modalities and this would be over soon,” said Mehbooba.
“Jammu and Kashmir is not like any other state. You need to address things politically, economically. For that we have drafted agenda of alliance and I am happy that BJP at its highest forum and in Parliament reassured that they are committed by the agenda. This is also something we have managed,” she said.
Mehbooba said, “Jammu and Kashmir is a secular state and we have believe in brotherhood and co-existence because we have a composite type of population- Hindu, Muslim, Sikhs and Christians and keeping that in view that co-existence in Jammu and Kashmir, this alliance has taken place”.
“Mufti Sahib used to say repeatedly that he did not shake the hands with the Prime Minister of India but with over hundred crore people of India and the people who have choosen this government”, Mehbooba said.
Mehbooba heaped praises on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and said he has assured all help to my government. “We will stick to the “Agenda of Alliance” formed between the Prime Minister and late Mufti Mohammad Sayeed. That is a sacred document for us. We are not going to move an inch away from this agreed vision,” she said while adding that her father’s vision of peace and development will be fulfilled with a renewed vigour.
“The Agenda of Alliance formulated during Mufti’s time has been supported at the highest level by the BJP whether it is Arun Jaitley ji or Ram Madhav Ji and above all the Prime Minister and the PM reassurance to us. I am very happy for that. I am satisfied will that also”, she said. .
Mehbooba presently represents south Kashmir’s Anantnag constituency in the Lok Sabha. To be the Chief Minister, she will have to get elected to either House of the state’s bicameral legislature and also resign her Parliament seat. PDP at present has 27 elected members in the 87-member Kashmir Assembly. BJP has 25 and it also enjoys support of the Sajad Lone-led Peoples Conference’s two MLAs and Independent from Udhampur.
In Delhi, the PDP drew flak for aligning with the BJP. The Congress put a poser wanting to know what will be the new government’s stance on the Parliament attack convict, Afzal Guru, as the PDP believes that hanging the Kashmiri militant was a miscarriage of justice. “J&K deserves an elected government and we welcome celebration of democracy. But will (the) BJP tell what is the stance of PDP-BJP on Afzal Guru now,” Congress spokesman Randeep Surjewala asked in a tweet.
Aam Aadmi Party leader Kumar Vishwas asked Mehbooba to clear her stand. “Your stands on certain issues like holding Parliament attack accused Afzal Guru a martyr cannot be agreed with. Now, we have come to know that you have changed your old stand on Afzal.” Vishwas asked the PDP chief to “voluntarily give a statement in the media that you hold Afzal Guru as a traitor and not a martyr”.