Jammu and Kashmir Governor Satyapal Malik on Wednesday, Nov 21, night dissolved the state Assembly, which has been in suspended animation, shortly after rival alliances staked claim to form the government.
The state has been under Governor’s rule from June 19 this year after the government headed by the Peoples Democratic Party’s (PDP) Mehbooba Mufti fell when its partner BJP pulled out of the ruling coalition on June 16.
The state Assembly, which had two more years to go, was also kept in suspended animation so that political parties could explore the possibility of forming a new government. Now the six month period of Governor rule was drawing to a close on December 18 and President’s rule would have followed and, with the Assembly dissolved, would start from that date. Assembly elections would follow within six months.
The Governor’s decision came soon after Mehbooba Mufti staked the claim to form a government with the support of the Congress and the National Conference.
Shortly thereafter, People’s Conference leader Sajjad Lone also staked claim to form the government with the help of the 25-member BJP. The BJP had been discussing an alliance with Sajad Lone for weeks.
In a letter to the Governor, Mehbooba said the PDP is the largest party in the state assembly having a strength of 29 MLAs.
“You might have gathered from the media reports that the Congress and the National Conference have also decided to extend support to our party to form a government in the state. The National Conference has a strength of 15 MLAs and the Congress 12. That takes our collective strength to 56.
“Since I am presently in Srinagar, it would not be possible for me to call on you immediately and this is to keep you informed that we would be seeking your convenience shortly to stake the claim for forming the government in the state,” Mehbooba said in her letter.
After the news of dissolution of Assembly, the PDP leader charged that her message wasn’t received.
Governor Malik said on Thursday he didn’t receive her message as no one was sitting next to the fax machine when Mehbooba Mufti sent her letter as it was a holiday. “My office was shut because of Eid so I got no communication from Mehbooba Mufti. On a holiday, none was sitting next to the fax machine,” Malik told a TV news channel.
Mufti, who was ready with her letter that claimed the support of arch-rival National Conference (NC) and Congress to form the government in the restive state, turned to Twitter to deliver her claim, tagging the governor’s account.
The 59-year-old leader said she had been trying to send her letter staking claim to the Raj Bhavan. But “strangely the fax is not received”. She tried to contact him by phone too, but he was “not available”.
In a series of tweets on Wednesday, Mufti thanked NC’s Omar Abdullah and Congress’Ambika Soni “for helping us achieve the seemingly impossible” and said “the very idea of a grand coalition” had given jitters, in a sharp jibe at her former coalition partner.
“PS – In todays age of technology, it is very strange that the fax machine at HE Governor’s residence didn’t receive our fax but swiftly issued one regarding the assembly dissolution. ? (sic),” she said.
Abdullah also replied to Mufti’s tweet and said the Raj Bhawan needs a new fax machine urgently, taking a dig at Raj Bhavan with a picture of a fax machine with a shredder .
Raj Bhavan Jammu fax machine at work pic.twitter.com/RyLOhvQinc
— Omar Abdullah (@OmarAbdullah) November 21, 2018
“And I never thought I’d be retweeting anything you said while agreeing with you. Politics truly is a strange world. Good luck for the battle ahead. Once again the wisdom of the people will prevail,” he said, to Mehbooba Mufti’s tweet.
And I never thought I’d be retweeting anything you said while agreeing with you. Politics truly is a strange world. Good luck for the battle ahead. Once again the wisdom of the people will prevail. https://t.co/OcN9uRje1s
— Omar Abdullah (@OmarAbdullah) November 21, 2018
Governor Mailk’s claim of not being aware of happenings would appear doubtful, especially as the state machinery is under his command and also because everyone else was aware of the happenings. After Mehbooba Mufti staked claim, People’s Conference led by Sajjad Lone later staked a rival claim, saying it had the support of 25 legislators belonging to the BJP and “more than 18” others.
While the PDP leader could not get through to the Governor, Sajad Lone, however, did have a phone conversation with the Governor, said media reports. “I shall submit the Letter of Support from the BJP legislature Party and other members supporting the government… as and when asked to do so by your Excellency,” his letter read.
The People’s Conference was founded by Sajad Lone’s father Abdul Ghani Lone, who was killed by Pakistan-based terrorists in 2002.
Governor Satyapal Malik’s reasoning
The Governor cited various reasons for his decision to dissolve the assembly. He said he concluded the assembly had to be dissolved due to “The impossibility of forming a stable government by the coming together of political parties with opposing political ideologies” and “Reports of extensive horse trading and possible exchange of money in order to secure the support of legislators.”
On Thursday he justified his decision claiming that MLAs were receiving terrorist threats and even directions on government formation.
“I had been receiving reports from various quarters, including intelligence agencies, for the last week to ten days that in efforts to form the government, the atmosphere has been made vicious,” Malik said.
“Bade paimane par paisa diya ja raha hai. Logon ko daraya ja raha hai, dhamkaya ja raha hai. Kuch logon ko terrorist threat diya ja raha hai. Is tarah se sarkar banane ki koshish ki ja rahi hai. Main is ko kaisey allow karta (I had been receiving reports from various quarters, including intelligence, that the atmosphere has been so vitiated that money is being offered at large scale. People are being threatened and even issued terrorist threats. This is how efforts are being made to form government. How could I have allowed it?),” Malik asked.
This was in reference to accusations by the People Democratic Party (PDP) and National Conference (NC) that dissolution of the Assembly was murder of democracy in the state.
About PDP and NC leaders’ charge that the Governor’s House did not receive Mehbooba Mufti’s fax Wednesday staking claim to form government, Malik said that his office was closed on account of Eid. He added there was no one in his office to even serve him food and that the leaders could have sent it to him a day earlier.
“Even if they had delivered it to us, it would have made no material impact in view of reports received by me during the past ten days,” Malik said. Even PDP leader Mehbooba Mufti had been complaining of attempts to break her party, the Governor said, adding that others were talking about attempts to create an unholy alliance by parties which had nothing in common.
“Those crying foul have themselves been asking me for last five months to dissolve the Assembly. However, I had been keeping it alive as MLAs were having funds and public works were going on. The political process was halfway through, but it was on,” Malik said.
About NC and PDP, Malik said that they were the people who had been opposed to urban and rural local body elections. This (government formation attempts) would have adversely hit the security forces and police efforts to successfully conduct the ongoing panchayat elections, he said.
The Governor described the PDP-NC efforts to stitch an alliance for government formation as “unholy”. He said, “This was a power-hungry alliance and for self-preservation, to avoid split in their respective parties. There has been a lot of dissatisfaction among both the parties.”
The governor, said media reports quoting sources, met Prime Minister Narendra Modi two days ago and reportedly followed it up with a meeting with BJP president Amit Shah.
Shortly after the governor dissolved the assembly, Omar Abdullah tweeted: “@JKNC_ has been pressing for assembly dissolution for 5 months now. It can’t be a coincidence that within minutes of @MehboobaMufti letter staking claim the order to dissolve the assembly suddenly appears.”
In a later tweet, Mufti said, “PS – In todays age of technology, it is very strange that the fax machine at HE Governor’s residence didn’t receive our fax but swiftly issued one regarding the assembly dissolution.”
The reaction from Congress was strange. Senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad contradicted Mehbooba Mufti and Omar Abdullah’s line, saying, “nobody was keen to form a government”. “Neither was National Conference keen to form a government, the Congress was not keen at all to form a government. It was a suggestion,” Azad told NDTV.
The BJP jeered in a series of tweets. “The proposed alliance between the INC and the PDP broke up even before it was formed. They have taken contradictory positions on dissolution. One supports it and the other opposes it,” said one tweet.
The dissolution of assembly found support from the BJP, whose tie-up with PDP with diametrically different ideology had unravelled in June. Questioning Mufti’s Grand Alliance, the BJP said in a tweet, “The best option in such a scenario is to go in for a fresh election at the earliest. This assembly cannot produce a stable government.”
The BJP has called for an urgent meeting with all its MLAs on Thursday to decide the future course of action, BJP state president Ravinder Raina told ANI. “We wish that the Assembly elections in J&K should be conducted along with the Parliament elections,” he said.
Statements from the BJP and Governor Satyapal Malik were on the similar lines.
The BJP said on Twitter that the border state cannot afford horse-trading and instability keeping its security scenario in mind.
It added that the state needs a firm administration to deal with terrorism and not a combination of “terror-friendly parties”.
In an online interview, BJP national general secretary Ram Madhav was reported to have claimed that the regional parties had received “instructions from across the border.”
“The PDP and the NC boycotted local body polls last month because they had instructions from across the border. Probably, they had fresh instructions from across the border to come together and form government… The sudden love between NC and PDP and the hurry to form a government leads to many suspicions and political comments,” Madhav had said.
Governor Malik had said the political parties in the State were indulging in “horse-trading” and money was “changing hands”. He had also spoken of terror threat.
Omar Abdullah responds
National Conference leader and former state chief minister Omar Abdullah took exception to these statements and said his party will take legal action against BJP.
“This is ridiculous, to say the least. It is outright defamatory. It is too much now. They (BJP) had nothing to say in response to us so they make this defamatory allegation. Till yesterday, they were partners of PDP.
“Our party will explore the option of legal action against BJP. Such allegations cannot go unanswered. Because non-BJP parties have the numbers in assembly and are coming together to form a government, they become ‘terror-friendly’ and ‘anti-national’. This won’t be tolerated,” he said.
“One of their (tv) channels was even claiming that this mahaghatbandan (of PDP, NC, Congress) was hatched in Dubai and London by Pakistan. This is becoming too much. No party has given more sacrifices than NC. Thousands of our workers have been killed over the years. What is BJP’s contribution in J&K other than this defamatory language,” Abdullah said.
Taking to Twitter, Abdullah ‘dared’ Madhav to prove his allegation – that the NC and PDP boycotted the Urban Local Body (ULB) elections in Jammu and Kashmir by acting behest of Pakistan – and put the evidence in public domain or “be man enough” to apologise.
At a press conference in Srinagar, Abdullah asked Governor Malik and Ram Madhav to prove the allegations they had made against the new alliance.
“The Governor while enumerating reasons to dissolve the Assembly mentioned attempts at horse trading and money being spent. People of J&K need to know who spent the money? Where did it come from? And at whose behest the MLAs were being purchased?” said Abdullah in a press conference in Srinagar.
He also sought an explanation on why the fax machine at the Raj Bhawan “was one sided.” “It failed to receive PDP’s claim at forming government but was able to send letter on dissolution of Assembly. This need to be explained,” he said.
Terming the coming together of National Conference, Congress and BJP as “bid to clean up the mess, striking a balance and ending uncertainty in J&K,” Abdullah said, “The aim was to protect the special status of J&K, as Article 35A was coming up for hearing before the Supreme Court in January. We wanted a defence of the Article and would have dissolved the Assembly to pave for fresh elections.”
Abdullah remained non-committal on continuing his party’s alliance with the PDP. “J&K requires a genuine opposition too. We do not want to create a situation where fringe elements will fill any political vacuum,” he said.
He challenged Ram Madhav to prove his allegations on Pakistan hand in the alliance. “Mr. Madhav, you are disrespecting sacrifices of my workers who died because they refused to dance on the tunes of Pakistan. More NC workers died than BJP workers in Kashmir. If you have evidence, place it before the public. This politics of shoot and scoot will not work, else apologise,” he added.
He said Madhav is not upset with Pakistan “but his own failure to install a government in J&K through a backdoor.”
Earlier, in a series of tweets, Abdullah refuted Madhav’s allegations. “Misplaced attempts at humour won’t work. You have claimed my party has been acting at the behest of Pakistan. I dare you to prove it. Place the evidence of your allegation of NC boycott of Urban Local Bodies polls at Pakistan’s behest in the public domain. It’s an open challenge to you and your government,” he tweeted.
“You have RAW, NIA and IB at your command (CBI too is your parrot) so have the guts to place evidence in the public domain. Either prove this or be man enough to apologise. Don’t practice shoot and scoot politics,” he responded to Madhav.
Ram Madhav backtracks
After Omar Abdullah’s strong remarks, Madhav backtracked and said said, “I take back my comment.”
He said he was not questioning Abdullah’s patriotism. “Just take it in your stride @OmarAbdullah Not questioning your patriotism at all. But d sudden love between NC n PDP n d hurry to form government leads to many suspicions n political comments. Not to offend u,” Madhav tweeted, with a toothy smile emoji.
Abdullah was unyielding. “No, misplaced attempts at humour won’t work. You HAVE claimed my party has been acting at the behest of Pakistan. I dare you to prove it! Place the evidence of your allegation of NC boycott of ULB polls at Pak behest in public domain,” he tweeted.
Subsequently, Madhav backtracked his comment and also quipped that Abdullah should fight the next elections alongside PDP.
“Just landed@Aizawl n saw this. Now tht u deny any external pressure I take back my comment, bt, now tht u proved it ws genuine love btw NC n PDP tht prompted a failed govt formation attempt,u shud fight nxt elections 2gether. Mind u it’s pol comnt, not personal,” Madhav tweeted along with “tears of joy” emoji.