November 2018 News

Jammu And Kashmir Governor Dissolves Assembly As Sajjad Lone, Mehbooba Mufti Stake Claims

21 November 2018
Times of India
M Saleem Pandit

Srinagar: J&K governor Satya Pal Malik on Wednesday evening dissolved the assembly in a move intended to nip efforts by PDP leader Mehbooba Mufti to form an unlikely alliance + with rival National Conference and old partner Congress, which the Centre believed would deepen instability in the state. The dramatic turn of events came after Mehbooba, who quit as chief minister after BJP withdrew support to her in June, and J&K People's Conference leader Sajjad Lone declared that they would stake claim to form a government and seek revival of the assembly that has been in suspended animation. Home ministry sources said the governor conveyed he had no evidence of numbers from either side and did not see prospects of a stable government. In the event, a decision was taken to advance dissolution of the assembly ahead of the earlier plan to do so around mid-December. The decision was brought forward even as sources said the option of timing fresh polls with Lok Sabha elections remained. Discontent in PDP made Mehbooba go to NC, Congress The intensified moves by PDP, NC and Congress to form a coalition was viewed by the Centre as being detrimental to the political situation in the state as such an arrangement would be riven with serious contradictions. It would also, sources said, shrink the space for mainstream politics as PDP and NC primarily represented the Kashmir Valley. As two distinct entities, they widened the choice for voters. A coming together of PDP, NC and Congress would sharpen the geographical and religious divide in the state as BJP, overwhelmingly representing Jammu, would be out of the equation. The move by Lone, who has been critical of separatist Hurriyat and less so of BJP, is seen to be intended to counter the fledgling alliance. Home secretary Rajiv Gauba tracked developments in J&K from the morning. After home minister Rajnath Singh landed in Delhi at 7pm after an election tour of Madhya Pradesh, he held consultations with PM Narendra Modi over the phone. By 8-8.30 pm it was clear the governor had no option but to dissolve the assembly. The view in Srinagar was that the rising discontent among her MLAs after founding member and Baramulla MP Muzaffar Hussain Baig hinted at quitting PDP and joining a front led Mehbooba to reach out to NC and Congress for a coalition where leadership wou- ld not be a sticking point. After several parleys and backroom talks, Mehbooba in the evening sent a letter to Malik, informing him that she would soon stake claim. In the letter, she informed the governor that Congress and NC had decided to extend support to her party. Mehbooba rushed PDP MLA and former finance minister Altaf Bukhari to Omar Abdullah's Gupkar Road official residence. Bukhari, sources said, pleaded with Omar who has 15 MLAs and Congress which has 12, to keep Lone and BJP away from office. Sources said several PDP MLAs are disgruntled. With 25 MLAs of BJP and two of Lone's People's Conference, a two-third faction of PDP could easily split up and form the government, sources said. Omar Abdullah, according to sources, readily agreed to the proposal.

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