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J&K Assembly Hangs in Balance
by R C Ganjoo Bookmark and Share

Jammu and Kashmir is on the crossroads today, as none of the parties or BJP and PDP coalition could stake claim before the Governor to form the government. Governor’s rule is self-invited by political parties when Omar Abdullah, care taker chief minister put his resignation papers before waiting for any government to come in his place.

Legally, the life of state assembly expires on 19 January 2015. In the wake of resignation of the caretaker chief minister Omar Abdullah, the governor as a constitutional head of the state precisely acted under Art. 92 (1) of State Constitution and put state under his rule. The government formation and withdrawal of proclamation of governor’s can take place simultaneously if any political party stakes claim for the formation of the government, according to Law Secretary Muhammad Ashraf.

Governor’s rule cannot go on for a very long time, as governor has no political mandate to rule the state. However, it is not easy for political parties to give up power after all it is the question of their existence. The members elected to the Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Assembly have also become un-nerved after imposition of governor’s rule. Because they are not entitled to any perks and privileges, including the salary, as their six-year term starts on the date they are administered the oath of office by the Governor, legal experts say.

While the new Legislative Assembly stands constituted in terms of a notification issued by the government on December 31, 2014, its members are not entitled to any salary or perks as they have yet to take the oath of office.

“They are elected members in terms of the Jammu and Kashmir Representation of Peoples Act but are not entitled to salaries. They can’t participate in the proceedings of the House as they have not been administered the oath of office yet,” according to Advocate General M I Qadri. State Law Secretary Muhammad Ashraf Mir said, “Until the elected members take oath, they are not entitled to any perks. They cannot hold meetings with officers, especially now when the state has been placed under Governor’s rule and the Assembly put under suspended animation”.

Thus, a formation of the government in the state should either be before 19 January otherwise governor’s rule will have to continue till the parties stake claim. Under governor’s rule both PDP and BJP have got now cooling period to think over power sharing tactic with each other or will have to wait till elections in Delhi and Bihar are held, sources say.

Surprisingly, the J&K is entangled on another political situation when four members of the Rajya Sabha from Jammu and Kashmir, are retiring on February 12. They are Ghulam Nabi Azad ,Saif-ud-Din Soz (both from Congress), Mohammad Shafi Uri and Ghulam Nabi Ratanpuri (both from National Conference). Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad, former Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, according to sources, Azad would be hit hard by delay in the Rajya Sabha elections as he could lose the important post of the Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha. As budget session of Parliament is commencing in third week of February, the Congress would be left with no option but to designate a new Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha. The names already being discussed among the Congress circles included former Defence Minister AK Antony and former Commerce Minister Anand Sharma among others.

Sources said the Election Commission would take a decision on holding Rajya Sabha elections for four seats only after Governor’s Rule is revoked, a new Government is in place and the newly elected MLAs take oath. Till the MLAs take oath, they are not eligible for voting for Rajya Sabha or MLC elections.

There are remote chances of re-elections. And in case, fresh elections are held then BJP may not be able to sweep Jammu as it did in 2014. The so-called Modi-wave is already losing steam. This was indeed BJP’s best performance ever in Kashmir and there is no chance that they would do better if there were another election in the near future. On the other hand, PDP is likely to emerge stronger. Because, PDP managed to consolidate votes to help to form its own strong government and to keep the BJP away. As a result, Kashmiris are likely to consolidate their votes in favour of PDP at the cost of NC and Congress.

Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) with 28 MLAs and BJP (25) appears to have been caught in dilemma with whom to have an alliance and form the government. Both NC and Congress have extended unconditional support to PDP for government formation with an obvious aim of stopping BJP with an argument that such a coalition is not suitable but dangerous for the state. Apart from this several political leaders have also opposed the idea of PDP-BJP coalition in J&K, as the saffron party has ridden on a communal wave and won as many as 25 seats out 37 in Jammu region only. BJP does not enjoy any representation in Ladakh region and Kashmir valley. PDP has also got backing from the valley where it won 25 out of 46 seats with three seats from Jammu region and no presence in Ladakh. Congress with 12 and NC with 15 seats have presence in three and two regions of the state respectively. The 2014 J&K assembly elections have put all the regional and national political parties in a state of difficulty. The people of the three regions have given a different mandate for the three separate political parties. The fact of the matter is that, If the two parties forge an alliance, they can keep their differences aside and provide a stable government for a long time. On the other hand, if others like NC, BJP and independents or PDP, Congress and independents forge an alliance, they will have problem after the government is formed.
Noted political scientist and former HoD of Jammu University’s Political Science department, Prof Rekha Choudhary, believes people have given mandate to PDP and BJP to form the government and that the two parties should respect it. “ I don’t go in the realm of possibilities. However, I do not see any other combination working. If any other alliance crops up to form a government in the State, there would be strong undercurrents of resentment in both Kashmir and Jammu regions. If that happens, people will think their mandate has been crushed., according to Prof Choudhary.

While negotiating with the BJP emissaries, PDP conveyed its conditions on AFSPA, Article 370, Intra-Kashmir CBMs, dialogue with Pakistan and 6 year term and stuck to those redlines. People have given mandate for development. National Conference and Congress were voted out because of bad governance. The new government need not focus too much on ideology and rather really concentrate on good governance.

If J&K has to survive as one state and one region has not to be alienated, the largest single party PDP has no choice but to work with the BJP and the Congress whether they are in government or outside it. Politically, dialogue with adversaries is an essential part of governance. Ideologies divide, programmnes unite. Clearly, the BJP will have to keep its absolutist policies on the side, if they want to be part of the solution and a force of stability. On the face, Kashmiris voted for self-rule, Jammu for statehood and Ladakh for UT status, but the fact is that all three provinces voted , most of all, for deliverance from the six years of probably the worst ever democratically elected government, for change and for a better government.

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