PDP-BJP stake claim to form Govt; Governor accepts, seeks date

Excelsior Rakesh

*Peace, reconciliation, development priorities: Mehbooba
Sanjeev Pargal
JAMMU, Mar 26: Clearing all decks for revival of PDP-BJP coalition Government after nearly three months, Governor NN Vohra today accepted the claim of two parties to form next Government in the State when they staked claim in a meeting with Vohra at Raj Bhawan this afternoon.
“The Governor has accepted claim of the two parties to revive popular Government in the State after about three months after PDP and BJP leaders jointly called on him at Raj Bhawan here for over 30 minutes and submitted list of 53 MLAs to him in support of their claim to form the Government in the State, which is under the Governor’s Rule since January 8,” official sources told the Excelsior.
PDP president Mehbooba Mufti, accompanied by two Lok Sabha members and former Ministers-Muzaffar Hussain Baig and Tariq Hamid Qarra and BJP veteran Dr Nirmal Singh, former Deputy Chief Minister-met the Governor and submitted him the letters pertaining to decision of PDP to elect Mehbooba, also a Lok Sabha member, as PDP Legislature Party leader and Dr Nirmal Singh as BJP Legislature Party leader respectively.
Mehbooba met the Governor for second time in the day for 45 minutes from 7.10 pm onwards alone to discuss certain aspects of the Government formation, sources said.
In her earlier meeting, Mehbooba handed over the letter of 28 MLAs including 27 from PDP and Independent MLA from Zanskar Bakir Hussain Rizvi, who had elected her as the Legislature Party leader and Chief Ministerial candidate of the party on March 24 to the Governor, while Dr Nirmal Singh submitted the list of support to Mehbooba’s nomination as the Chief Minister from 25 MLAs of his party, which had met here yesterday and apart from formation of the Government, had elected Dr Singh as Legislature Party leader.
Two MLAs of Sajjad Lone’s People’s Conference were also supporting the Government but their letter of support was not required as PDP and BJP had strength of 53 MLAs on their own, nine more than majority mark of 44.
Mehbooba would have to become member of either House of the Legislature i.e. State Assembly or Council within six months of taking oath as the Chief Minister. She would have to give up her Lok Sabha membership from Anantnag, a seat she had won in April-May 2014 Parliamentary polls. While there will be no vacancy in the Upper House till March next year unless it was created by the PDP leaders, Anantnag Assembly seat has been lying vacant since January 7, the day then Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed has passed away. Mufti represented Anantnag seat in the Assembly. The Election Commission had to hold Assembly election to Anantnag seat before July 7.
Mehbooba, who received a shot in the arm by bringing both other Lok Sabha members of the PDP–Tariq Hamiq Qarra and Muzaffar Hussain Baig on board with her, said “peace, reconciliation and development” will be major planks of the governance.
Mehbooba, a Lok Sabha member from Anantnag, who would become 13th Chief Minister of J&K, first woman Chief Minister of the State declared that there was no problem on distribution of portfolios between PDP and BJP as both were coalition parties and the portfolios of either party belonged to them. There had been reports that the BJP would ask for Planning and MoS Home for its Ministers when the procession for Government formation starts at the local level between the two parties in the next few days.
However, leaders of both the parties, ducked questions on date for oath ceremony of the Chief Minister and the Council of Ministry saying the process would be discussed at the State level between the two parties and a date decided very soon.
BJP president Sat Sharma CA said the BJP State Executive meeting has been scheduled for April 2 and 3 and after that the leaders of PDP and BJP will sit together to work out modalities for formation of the Government including the Council of Ministers and allocation of portfolios. There were reports that the BJP leaders wanted to take oath after start of the auspicious days on April 8.
Sources said the Governor has asked the PDP and BJP leaders to finalize date for swearing-in of the Chief Minister and the Ministers and convey to him. The Governor’s Rule will be revoked after Mehbooba Mufti takes oath as the Chief Minister.
Mehbooba Mufti would be getting a little less than five years term as the Chief Minister if the two coalition partners progress smoothly. The J&K Assembly has six years term. One year of the Assembly was completed on March 18 as term of the Assembly is taken into account from the day the MLAs take oath. The BJP has already decided that Mehbooba will get full term as the Chief Minister as per the agreement reached before formation of the Government last year under which Mufti Mohammad Sayeed was given full term as the Chief Minister.
In the previous coalition of PDP and BJP, PDP had 14 Ministers including the Chief Minister, 10 Cabinet Ministers and three Ministers of State while BJP had 11 including the Deputy Chief Minister, seven Cabinet Ministers and three Ministers of State.
Meanwhile, speaking to reporters after meeting the Governor, Mehbooba Mufti declared that “peace, reconciliation and development” will be her main agenda of governance. She added that unity among three regions of the State, all communities and mutual brotherhood would be her other priorities.
Asserting that the support of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the PDP-BJP Government means support of millions of people, who had voted Modi to power, Mehbooba said she was happy with outcome of her meeting with Modi and assurances given by him on implementation of the ‘Agenda of Alliance’.
“The Prime Minister had assured me during the meeting that Jammu and Kashmir will have more development that any other State of the country and all issues of the people will be addressed,” she said, adding that relationship between Jammu and Kashmir and India will become “showcase of window” for entire world.
“Mufti Saheb had forged alliance with the BJP for good Governance, which we will take forward with “political, economic and social” development of the State.
On date for taking oath as the Chief Minister, Mehbooba said the PDP and BJP leaders will finalize modalities for formation of the Government. On distribution of portfolios, she said this was no-issue as the two parties were coalition partners and their portfolios belong to each other.
On being first woman Chief Minister of the State, she said it was wrong to differentiate between men and women.
On delay in formation of Government for two and half months for Confidence Building Measures (CBMs), the PDP president said the people will come to know when they will see progress on the ‘Agenda of Alliance’.
“During last two and half months, people of entire country have come to know about the ‘Agenda of Alliance’ and people of entire country were with us,” she said, adding “the time taken was worth of it”.
“I am thankful to the BJP party for extending unconditional support to us in the formation of the Government”, Mehbooba said.
“Once again I would like to repeat that the coalition Government which was formed after getting mandate of the people by our party in Kashmir and while respecting the mandate of the people, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed had formed this alliance and the Government”, 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”.
“I am very happy that reiteration of Agenda of Alliance has taken place between this and that side during past two and a half months. I am very happy about it because Mufti Sahib had forged this alliance for a larger purpose than just for the formation of the Government”, she said.
“The good governance is very much needed for the State. In the State of Jammu and Kashmir where there is such a situation and you need to address things politically and economically as well and socially”, she said.
“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 with that also”, she said.
Asked why Nirmal Singh was not present at the press meet, Mehbooba said, “You should note that even Baig Sahib (PDP MP), who had come with me, is still with the Governor as they would like to discuss the date of swearing-in ceremony”.
On what Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) demanded by PDP for past two-and-a-half months have been accepted by the BJP, Mehbooba said, “CBMs are not meant for Kashmir only. It means whole of Jammu and Kashmir. The basic purpose of Agenda of Alliance is to keep J-K together and put them on the same page and the distrust that exists between Valley and Jammu and the distrust between J-K and New Delhi needs to be removed”.
“To fill this gap, Mufti Sahib took this step and formulated Agenda of Alliance and took initiative of good governance and development apart from reconciliation and peace”, she said.
Asked about the dates of swearing-in-ceremony, she said “this is something that we will discuss with our alliance partner. We cannot take a decision unilaterally”.
To a question on whether any assurance has been given to her by the PM, she said, “You have read the statement of Ram Madhav, they will fully support this Government and also on all issues so that peace is restored in the state and process of reconciliation is carried forward and development takes place better than other states”
“Today I am confident that not only the BJP and PDP are with us but the people of entire nation stand with us and with this Government and that is a greater relief for me”, she said.
“The vacuum created by the demise of Mufti Sahib and the time of two and a half months taken to restore that confidence and trust to cobble up this government was worth it”, the PDP president said.
Talking to reporters outside the Raj Bhawan, BJP veteran and former Deputy Chief Minister Dr Nirmal Singh said he has given formal letter of support to the Governor, signed by BJP president Sat Sharma  CA. He said the two parties would now sit and decide the date for formation of the Government.
Nirmal Singh said, “We are sticking to the Agenda of Alliance and we will definitely stand on that”.
“We (PDP and BJP) shall sit together and will discuss various basic details shortly”, he said to a question whether any conditions had been put from the PDP side.
“There were no conditions from either side”, he added.
“We have no differences on the Agenda of Alliance and we are committed to that. We have extended our support to PDP for the formation of the Government”, he said.
Meanwhile, PDP today termed as baseless the “rumours” that there were differences between PDP and BJP over the issue of distribution of portfolios in the new Government.
“There are no differences (between PDP and BJP). At a time when the Government formation is in the process, rumours (on differences on distribution of portfolios) are baseless,” PDP chief spokesman Naeem Akhtar told reporters earlier.
On being asked when the oath-taking ceremony would take place, he said both the parties will sit together and decide the date.
“We will sit together and decide the date for oath-taking. There are absolutely no differences between the two parties,” he said.


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