In a classic case of 'Who will blink first?', People's Democratic Party (PDP) President Mehbooba Mufti has been maintaining suspense over J&K government formation while BJP continues to say that it will wait for the ally to make the first move.
BJP hopes to see the existing power-sharing arrangement to continue. But what about Mehbooba Mufti?
Analysts say that when the PDP and BJP forged an alliance with Mufti Sayeed at the helm of affairs, the latter had the upper hand on the negotiation table. However, the loss in Delhi and Bihar has dented the party's image and has now given Mehbooba the might to negotiate.
We try to explore the options PDP president Mehbooba Mufti has, keeping risks in mind.
Option 1: Mehbooba continues coalition with BJP under the 'Agenda Of Alliance'
In March 2015, PDP patron late Mufti Mohammad Sayeed did an unexpected thing by forging an alliance with 'opposite pole' BJP to form government in Jammu and Kashmir.
With Mufti as Chief Minister, BJP, which was riding high on the 'Modi Wave' managed to bargain key ministries from PDP.
On the other hand, statements made by BJP leaders over beef ban, Hurriyat and Indo-Pak talks put PDP in the dock in the Valley and affected its supporter base.
Rough road ahead:
Political analyst Prof. Gull Wani opines that before assuming power, Mehbooba will definitely make BJP change its strategy towards Kashmir, as she can't afford any insensitive remarks to hamper her party in Kashmir, where she enjoys mass support.
Option 2: Mehbooba to put a new face as CM and continue BJP alliance
This option seems feasible as it will allow her to keep a safe distance from the BJP and continue pursuing her 'soft-separatist' approach.
Credibility at risk:
Some experts say that this option has political drawbacks for Mehbooba Mufti as an administrator and will raise questions on her abilities to assume the state's top post.
"Omar Abdullah became chief minister at much younger age than Mehbooba, if she pulls out from top post, her abilities will be questioned," Wani added.
Option 3: PDP continues with BJP under a new set of conditions
Mehbooba Mufti is weighing this option and has reportedly put forward a new set of conditions to alliance partner BJP. The new conditions reportedly include removal of deputy CM post, return of Power Ministry to PDP, and more financial assistance from Modi govt.
According to political analysts, Mehbooba knows the damage the party has faced on the ground level after forging an alliance with BJP and she wants to rectify that error to keep her party going.
"Mehbooba knows the pulse of workers and members of the party better than her father late Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and it is going to influence her decision with BJP," Wani said.
Could this be another mistake on part of PDP?
The nine months experience with BJP in Jammu and Kashmir has seen rifts, not only between the alliance partners as whole, but even at the ministerial levels, which has badly affected the efficiency of governance in the state.
Option 4: New Alliance: PDP + Congress + NC + Independents
The number game between PDP (28) and Congress (12) is not enough to form the two party coalition in Jammu and Kashmir. They need the support of independent legislators and the national conference to reach the magic number of 44 out of 87 seats in Jammu and Kashmir assembly to form the government.
Experts say that this combination won't be manageable in Kashmir especially when you have two parties with different mood swings.
"In 2002 PDP-Congress had an unsuccessful alliance, which saw the ouster of Ghulam Nabi Azad as the Chief Minister following the sudden pullout from PDP after Amarnath Land row engulfed valley," said political analyst Sheikh Showkat Hussian, who teaches at Kashmir's Central University.
Hussain added that Independents play a crucial role in this alliance and have upper hands over the negotiation table, a scenario PDP can't think of.
Even National Conference headed by Omar Abdullah is not willing to support the party as PDP's alliance with BJP has given him enough ammunition to counter PDP in future elections.
"Omar knows that coalition is not going to survive for full term and in such scenarios he would like to cash the alliance failure, rather to mingle with PDP," Wani added.
The ball's in Mehbooba Mufti's court. We can only wait and watch.
-- Text by Tawqeer Hussain