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Modi-Nirmal Singh Meeting: Srinagar Set to Get Its First Saffron Govt?

The state BJP leaders have been vocal about trying to put together a new government with disgruntled elements from other parties.

Suhas Munshi | News18.com

Updated:July 11, 2018, 11:34 PM IST

New Delhi: Preparations to form the next government in Jammu and Kashmir are on in full swing. Top sources in the Prime Minister’s Office told News18 that former J&K deputy chief minister and senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Nirmal Singh held a closed-door meeting with Narendra Modi at his office in New Delhi at 4pm on Wednesday, fuelling speculation that the next BJP-led government could assume power in the state within a month.

They added that the meeting with the Prime Minister was held after a lengthy meeting with BJP’s J&K incharge and party secretary Ram Madhav earlier in the day.

Singh’s meeting with Modi gives strength to the rumours that the BJP is looking to appoint a Hindu chief minister in the state with support from PDP rebels.

News18 was the first to report more than a week ago that a big breakaway faction of the PDP has reached an understanding with the BJP and a major political announcement will be made after the Amarnath Yatra wraps up.

While nobody is willing to admit it, there have been a number of interesting developments that point towards the likelihood of the BJP announcing a government late in August — something that sources within both the PDP and the BJP have been saying for some time now.

High-Profile Visits

The high-profile political traffic between New Delhi and Srinagar has been remarkably high in the past few weeks. On June 27, barely 10 days after pulling out of its ruling alliance with the PDP, Madhav tweeted a photo of himself sitting with senior party leaders at the house of People’s Conference chief Sajjad Lone.

Lone flew down to Delhi four days later and was rumoured to have held a closed-door meeting with the Prime Minister though he denied it in a statement issued on Twitter.

On July 4, Union home minister Rajnath Singh reached Srinagar on a two-day visit along with home secretary Rajiv Gauba and National Security Adviser Ajit Doval.

Since then, Madhav is believed to have made another trip to the Valley.

Support from PDP Rebels

Abid Ansari, one of the PDP MLAs who openly rebelled against former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti’s leadership, has in no uncertain terms told News18 that PDP rebels would seriously consider supporting the BJP.

Ansari, the uncle of influential Shia cleric Imran Ansari, who was the first PDP MLA to declare a war on Mehbooba, said the party was either looking at a split or a major leadership change; in either case, Mehbooba is likely to be dethroned and left with just a handful of loyal supporters.

“The question is about numbers. We believe that there are well over a dozen MLAs with us right now. If Mehboobaji wants to save the party, she should step out of the leadership role and hand it over to someone responsible. Otherwise, we will go our separate way,” he said.

On the question of whether the rebels would consider supporting the BJP, Ansari said, “Why not? If we have the numbers, and I think we do, there is no reason to not form the government. Two years are still left in the current state government tenure.”

Meanwhile, sources in the PDP close to the party chief said Mehbooba had run out of options.

“We tried talking to the rebel MLAs. Mehboobaji even offered an apology to them. So I don’t know what else we can do. New Delhi can do what it wants, history tells us. But even if they form a government, through these devious means, how will they face the public is what I don’t understand. The agenda of peace, of dialogue has been abandoned midway. What hunger for power is this?” the PDP leader said.

Excitement in the BJP Camp

The state BJP leaders have been vocal about trying to put together a new government with disgruntled elements from other parties.

Within 10 days of pulling out of the state government, former deputy chief minister Kavinder Gupta had said, “I don’t think a new government will be formed anytime soon. Uncertainties are there, but we are working on something and people will get to know about it.”

This had prompted opposition leader Omar Abdullah to level charges of horse-trading against the BJP.

Clarifying his statements a week ago, Gupta told News18, “In the coming days, I see that dissatisfied MLAs not just from PDP, but also from Congress and National Conference, are likely to join forces and form a new front.”

Sources within various parties have confirmed to News18 that a “big announcement” as far as the new government in J&K is concerned “is likely to be made after Amarnath Yatra ends”.

Jammu and Kashmir assembly has 87 members, which means the halfway mark — the number of MLAs any coalition has to secure in order to stake claim to form government — is 44. The BJP needs 19 more MLAs to reach the halfway mark given that it has 25 MLAs at the moment. But given the steady and visible support that the party has been getting from Lone’s People’s Conference, this number could reduce by two — the number of sitting MLAs that People’s Conference has.

The BJP is unlikely to get support from any other party. So the only chance for it to come to power is to secure most of these 17 MLAs from PDP’s rebel faction. With every passing day, this looks like an increasing possibility.

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