Early J&K government unlikely as Mufti hardens stand

Just when the prospects of s government finally being formed in Jammu and Kashmir were looking bright, the hopes faded on Friday, as People's Democratic Party (PDP) chief Mehbooba Mufti hardened her stand further, insisting on setting a time-line for assurances enumerated in the Agenda of Alliance document, as well as seeking conducive political conditions for governance.

Sources in the PDP as well as in the Bharatiya Janata Party confirmed to the media that talks have broken down. As per original plans, after meeting BJP president Amit Shah on Thursday, Mehbooba was supposed to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday to formally revive the alliance. Even the date for swearing-in of Mehbooba as chief minister had been set as 25 March. She is now returning Srinagar today.

BJP general secretary Ram Madhav, who was instrumental in forming the first BJP-PDP government, admitted that there was little progress in talks, saying the PDP's "new demands" to form the government were "not acceptable" to his party.

"The situation in J&K is not because of us. Stalemate continues ... after Mufti Saab's death, PDP had to choose a leader for the CM's chair. No change in the situation even today," he said.

But taking to DNA newspaper Mehbooba Mufti said the party had not set any new conditions, and it only wanted implementation of a timeline for the issues already agreed in the Agenda of Alliance.

The state was put under the governor's rule since the two parties could not come to terms to form the new government. The BJP and the PDP together ran a coalition government from December 2014 till Sayeed's death.

Mehbooba, according to sources, has conveyed to the BJP that she cannot take over as chief minister simply for the sake of power. She has even conveyed that her party was willing to renegotiate the Agenda of Alliance, to include only deliverable points.

Though at various low-level meetings, the central ministers had assured her support, they wanted her to first take over as chief minister, which she flatly refuses. She even asked the BJP brass if they can approach any other party to form the government in J&K, if her conditions were unpalatable.

Meanwhile, the BJP has ruled out making any time-bound commitments on the agenda for alliance or accepting any new demands.

Madhav said any such proposals could be considered after government formation but conditions could not be the basis for forming government. The BJP has maintained, ever since Mufti's death, that it would neither relent to PDP's demands for confidence-building measures nor hurry into forming the government.

Asked how long it would take to end the impasse, he said, "No idea ... when Mufti Mohammad Sayeed (former chief minister) died, there was no change in the situation. The only difference was that Muftiji was no more and it was the PDP's responsibility to select a new chief minister," Madhav said.

Talking to reporters Madhav said, ''Whatever fresh has to be done has to be done after government formation. The first thing is that no new demand is acceptable to us and the second thing is that if there are new demands then it can be taken up once a new government takes over. A state government always has a right to make demands to the centre. A government cannot be formed on the basis of conditions,'' he said.

When asked if a new government will be formed, he said, ''I cannot say because the stalemate that existed earlier continues. It's not possible to form government on conditions.