Kashmir impasse: governor invites PDP, BJP for talks

Jammu & Kashmir governor N N Vohra on Friday invited the PDP and the BJP for discussions on government formation in the state, where there is still no clarity on the contours of the next government.

Letters have been sent to both the parties as the 23 December election results saw a hung House, with no side getting a majority in the 87-member assembly. The People's Democratic Party emerged the largest party with 28 seats and the BJP finished second with 25.

The state assembly's term ends on 19 January and a new government must be in place by then.

''It's not an exercise to cobble up a coalition. That's not the job of the governor. Letters were sent as these are the two largest parties,'' Vohra's principal secretary Rakesh Gupta said. The governor would hold separate meetings with the two parties on 1 January.

The letters were sent in the evening as senior BJP leader Ram Madhav held talks with the PDP in the Srinagar.

Talk of a possible tie-up with the BJP triggered a rebellion in the National Conference while the Congress again offered support to the PDP, whose leaders are also in touch with the BJP.

''We are meeting all important stakeholders and our aim is to provide a stable and credible government,'' Madhav, who is negotiating with both the PDP and the NC, said. The talks were in very early stages and had not reached a point where CM candidate could be discussed, he said.

Madhav opened channels of communication with the PDP on Thursday night after talks with the NC hit a rough patch, sources said.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, two senior NC leaders told HT that party chief Omar Abdullah had assured the party would not go with the BJP. The NC has 15 MLAs and the Congress, its former ally, 12.

''Looks like the PDP is playing mind games with the BJP leaking about a letter of NC support that doesn't exist. Only a verbal offer conveyed,'' Abdullah tweeted.

A possible alliance with the BJP, which registered all its wins in the predominantly Hindu region of Jammu, can have a bearing on both the PDP and NC, which enjoy extensive support in the Muslim-dominated Kashmir valley.

While the BJP was keen on the chief minister's post, the PDP was not in favour of rotating the position, reports said. The BJP too, which was denied the top post in Karnataka and Uttar Pradesh by allies after they completed their share of the CM tenure, doesn't want such an arrangement of rotating CMs with the PDP.

The Congress made yet another offer of support to the PDP even though its earlier attempt had failed to elicit a response. ''The PDP has the legal, moral and constitutional right to form a government (in Jammu and Kashmir). We are prepared to support them if they are ready to form the government,'' Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi said in Delhi.

Party colleague Ghulam Nabi Azad asked the BJP not to indulge in ''arm-twisting'' tactics and be ''insensitive'' while ''bulldozing'' its way on government formation.