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Power game: is the BJP about to break off alliance with the PDP?

Catch Team | Updated on: 14 February 2017, 5:59 IST

With Ram Madhav going public with the BJP's exasperation at the PDP's "new conditions" for government formation in J&K, the PDP-BJP alliance is on the verge of a break-up. That is, unless Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself intervenes to repair this abrupt deterioration in the relationship.

Speaking to the media today, Madhav sounded as if the BJP had thrown in the towel. "A government cannot be formed on the basis of conditions," the BJP general secretary said. "First thing is that no new demand is acceptable to us, the second thing is that if there are new demands they can be taken up once a new government takes over."

Sudden shock

Madhav's remarks came a day after PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti met BJP president Amit Shah, brightening hopes for an end to the two-month-long logjam over government formation. Their meeting was reportedly "positive", as was indicated by the army's simultaneous concurrence to return more than 350 acres of land occupied by it in Srinagar, Jammu, Anantnag and Kargil by March 31. This was one of the PDP's main preconditions for re-forming the government. The party wants J&K to be compensated for illegal occupation of acres of land by the army and other central security forces.

Read: Meet Mehbooba Mufti, the likely new Chief Minister of J&K. Cold sweat, BJP?

However, Mehbooba's meeting with Shah didn't yield a public statement, which was construed as it being inconclusive.

Mehbooba, sources in the PDP said, had asked to meet Modi to press for a sympathetic response to her demands, especially the return of hydel projects owned by the NHPC.

"The meeting was set for yesterday evening but due to the engagements of the prime minister, it was deferred till Thursday," said a PDP leader, on the condition of anonymity. "We don't know what happened today."

The meeting was expected to clear the decks for government formation, the leader said, but in a dramatic turn of events, Mehbooba was told she should first form the government and then meet the prime minister.

Mehbooba Mufti asked to meet Narendra Modi to press her demands. Form government first, she was told

This was followed by Madhav virtually calling off the coalition. "There's no progress in the current situation. We will not accept any demands," Madhav, the BJP's pointsperson on J&K, said. "The government will not be made on any conditions. We have told them that a new government should be formed on the conditions that existed earlier."

Madhav's remarks were immediately followed by a barrage of tweets from the PDP's official account, which suggested a fast deteriorating relationship.

Damage control

"PDP has not set any new demands but only reiterated the implementation of 'Agenda of Alliance' as was earlier agreed with BJP," the party tweeted. "The 'Agenda of Alliance' document was mutually agreed between J&KPDP and BJP last year."

Subsequent tweets indicated a hardening of the PDP's position as well. "Agenda of Alliance says the 'present position will be maintained on all constitutional provisions pertaining to J&K including special status," one post read. "PDP is only asking BJP to walk the pre-agreed Agenda of Alliance on the existing status of J&K."

Read more: Mehbooba plays hardball. Why it suits her to break with BJP

In a little under half an hour, the party sent out 21 tweets, all holding the BJP to its commitment to the Agenda of Alliance.

According to the sources, the PDP specifically wanted action on three "mutually-agreed points" in the Agenda of Alliance before forming the government. One, the vacation of illegally held land by the army or else compensation at market rates, a demand that the army has now agreed to. Two, announcement of two smart cities for J&K, in Jammu and Srinagar.

Three, and this reportedly the main sticking point, the return of one or two power projects owned by the NHPC in the state.

This, in fact, was reiterated in the tweets today. "Agenda Of Alliance sought modalities for transfer of Dulhasti & Uri power projects to J&K as suggested by Rangarajan Committee Report," the party tweeted. "The return of power projects & a share in the profits of NHPC emanating from J&K waters to the state govt was part of Agenda of Alliance."

Sticking points: vacation of land occupied by army, return of NHPC projects, two smart cities for J&K

Still, the PDP leadership is "clueless" about what has caused the sudden meltdown of the alliance.

"We were telling the BJP there is a huge trust deficit in Kashmir which has to be addressed. People suspect us of having signed a piece of paper (Agenda of Alliance) to form the government as nothing significant has happened about its implementation. Only thing that we want is action on the mutually agreed agenda," senior party leader Naeem Akhter told Catch.

"A concrete beginning on the implementation of the agenda is crucial to our political credibility and to the credibility of the mainstream political forces in the state. We wanted some action as it was absent in the ten months during which we were in power," Akhter added. "Why should people trust us when nothing is done on the ground, that too on things which are doable?"

Edited by Mehraj D. Lone

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First published: 19 March 2016, 10:02 IST