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India-held Kashmir set to get first woman CM

India-held Kashmir set to get first woman CM

NEW DELHI: The disputed Jammu and Kashmir state is primed to get its first woman chief minister after the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) elected Mehbooba Mufti its head in the assembly and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) agreed on Friday to support her leadership.

Clearing the decks for Ms Mufti as the state’s first woman chief minister, the BJP said on Friday that it would, however, discuss “certain issues” with it before visiting Governor N. N. Vohra with its formal letter of support.

The state is currently under Governor’s Rule. The impasse in the government formation — in place since the death of then Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed in January — was finally resolved last week after Ms Mufti met Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The PDP chief had refused to succeed her father as the chief minister, demanding that the BJP honour the conditions laid down in the Agenda of Alliance, a blueprint crafted when the two parties decided on co-governing the state. But her party suggested that the BJP was not delivering on the commitments required from the union government.

While the BJP refused to give anything in writing, senior leaders, including Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, provided repeated assurances that the centre’s promises to Jammu and Kashmir would be kept.

After a 25-minute meeting with the prime minister on Wednesday, Ms Mufti said: “When you meet the prime minister then the ways of sorting out problems becomes more clear”.

The change in Ms Mufti’s stance was said to have come after the pressure mounted by her lawmakers, who were keen on government formation. Her political rival Omar Abdullah, who had met the governor and demanded fresh elections if the PDP and BJP stalemate was not resolved, had said Ms Mufti was trying to avert a split in her party.

“The BJP and PDP leaders will have a meeting between ourselves before they go together to meet the governor,” Indian Express quoted BJP national general secretary Ram Madhav as saying in the state’s winter capital of Jammu.

“However, when they meet and go to the governor will have to be decided by then,” he added.

Earlier, apart from deciding to support the PDP to form coalition government, BJP legislature party unanimously re-elected Dr Nirmal Singh, MLA from Billawar, as its leader paving way for his becoming deputy chief minister once again, the Express said. BJP State President Sat Sharma, however, said that it would first have a meeting with the PDP to discuss certain issues.

“We may not be able to meet the governor today,” Mr Sharma was quoted as saying soon after the Legislature party meeting in Jammu. “We have decided to discuss certain issues with them (PDP) before both of us visit the governor together to stake claim for government formation,” he added.

“It may take two-three days,” Mr Sharma said. “Both of us will first sit together to discuss certain issues before meeting the governor,” he said, adding that: “It takes time to form government”.

The decision came at a BJP legislature party meeting chaired by BJP national general secretary Ram Madhav. Minister of State in the PMO Dr Jitendra Singh was also present at the meeting.

Governor N. N. Vohra had separately called leaders of both PDP and BJP on Friday evening to explain their position on government formation. Ms Mufti also arrived in Jammu in the afternoon to meet the governor.

The BJP, however, has decided to postpone its scheduled meeting with Mr Vohra. Mr Sat Sharma, however, did not elaborate on the issues, but said that there has been no change in the Agenda of Alliance already finalised between the two parties.

“It is just continuation of the process that has started a year earlier,” he said about the government formation.

Earlier in the morning, Dr Jitendra Singh described the government formation exercise as continuation of the process initiated a year earlier.

“Our alliance had neither broken nor there were differences in it,” he said.

Published in Dawn, March 26th, 2016

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