Alliance With NC Is A Better Bet, BJP MLAs Tell Jaitley

25 December 2014
The Indian Express
Arun Sharma , Maneesh Chhibber , Pradeep Kaushal

Jammu: As the BJP stepped up its bid to form a government in Jammu and Kashmir where it has emerged as the second largest party, its newly-elected MLAs told Union Minister Arun Jaitley Thursday that an alliance with the National Conference was a better bet than the People's Democratic Party. Emerging from a series of meetings with the MLAs at the Hari Niwas hotel in Jammu, Jaitley said 'the general consensus is that a government shall be formed'. 'We listened to their views on what kind of a government will be formed or shall be formed in the hung assembly and who shall be the leader of the BJP legislature party,' he said. In the J&K House of 87, the BJP has 25 MLAs and the NC 15. The PDP with 28 MLAs is the largest party. Senior BJP leaders told The Indian Express that the party has reached out to the NC and is ready to offer four cabinet berths in the next government if it agrees to an alliance. It will also be made an offer to join the central government and given support for a Rajya Sabha seat, one of the BJP leaders said. Jitendra Singh, BJP MP from Udhampur-Doda who is Minister of State in the PMO, is tipped to be the party choice for chief minister should an alliance be stitched. Some MLAs have backed former state unit chief and Billawar MLA Nirmal Singh for the post. In their meetings with Jaitley and Arun Singh, the second central observer, the MLAs were said to have pointed out that the NC may agree to play second fiddle and accept the post of deputy chief minister in a BJP-led government. They believe that the PDP will drive a hard bargain in coalition talks. The BJP leaders were said to have acknowledged that there was merit in the view of most MLAs that people of Jammu - all 25 seats that the party won are in Jammu province and it drew a blank in Kashmir and Ladakh - would not be happy if the party agreed to a Kashmiri Muslim as chief minister. 'Jaitleyji and Arunji spoke to each MLA separately to know our views on the issue of government formation. Most said that the NC would be a better option since we have been partners at the central level in the past. But the final decision will be taken by the central leadership of the party,' an MLA told The Indian Express. BJP general secretary Ram Madhav, who too was in Jammu, ruled out the possibility of Governor's Rule in the state in view of the fractured verdict. 'I really don't think so. The people have given a mandate. Although it is a fragmented mandate, there is possibility of a stable government in the state,' he said. The BJP legislature party adopted a resolution leaving the decision on government formation and their leader to party president Amit Shah. 'Sovereignty of the nation, development and regional balance will be the three vital points to any decision taken by the party keeping in view the larger national interest and also interest of the state,' Jaitley said. In New Delhi, the BJP dismissed reports of NC leader Omar Abdullah meeting Jaitley and Shah. But sources said Devender Rana, close aide of Abdullah and NC's newly elected MLA from Nagrota, got in touch with a senior BJP leader on Wednesday evening. Rana is also the younger brother of Jitendra Singh. A senior PDP leader too was said to be in touch with the BJP leadership to explore government formation. Rana told The Indian Express that the NC had offered support to PDP to form a stable government. 'We have similar ideology on several issues including AFSPA,' he said. Jaitley denied any meeting with the NC or PDP but Ram Madhav said 'naturally, when we explore options, we try and contact people'. Referring to the possibility of forming a government with NC, he said: 'We can have any number of seats, but both parties have to first arrive at some understanding between themselves. We have not reached the stage to discuss a CM full-time or by rotation, or who will be the CM or who will be Deputy CM.'