Early elections likely in J&K as governor dissolves House

In a late night development, the suspended legislative assembly in the sensitive Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) was dissolved by the governor amid belated efforts by rival political groups to cobble up a coalition of “like-minded” parties.

Explaining the sudden move, Governor Satya Pal Malik, above, said the two rival groups claiming majority to form a government have parties with opposing political ideologies. Some of them were even demanding the dissolution of the assembly.

The state’s fragile security scenario demands a strong and stable government that provides supportive environment for police and military to operate. Such a stable government is not possible now.

The rival political groups’ claim of majority to form a government is only an attempt to grab power and not to provide good governance in the decades-old, militancy-wracked state.  Reports over the past 15 days indicated that parties had already started horse trading to win over lawmakers to their respective camps. Some lawmakers were threatened if they failed to cross over. Such activities are not healthy for democracy and will only vitiate the political process, Malik said.

According to the governor, before announcing the dissolution of the assembly, he did not receive fax messages from political leaders staking claim to form government as it was a holiday for Eid on Wednesday and no one was sitting next to the fax machine. Even if he had received them, his decision would have been the same, Malik said.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which ruled Jammu and Kashmir for more than three years before parting ways with its coalition partner Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in June this year, said the best option in such a situation is to call fresh elections at the earliest. The party’s state unit held a meeting at its headquarters on Thursday.

The president of the party’s state unit, Ravinder Raina, said opposition parties conspired but failed to form an anti-BJP, anti-Jammu, anti-Ladakh and Kashmir-leaning alliance.

BJP leader Ram Madhav alleged Pakistan’s role in bringing arch rivals Mehbooba Mufti and Omar Abdullah together to
plan an alliance along with Congress. He later took back the comment after Abdullah denied any pressure from Islamabad.

Governor Malik, however, said Pakistan played a role in forcing many voters in the Kashmir valley to boycott the recent Panchayat elections.

Opposition parties questioned the dissolution of the assembly. They may move the Supreme Court against the governor’s decision.

Abhishek Manu Singhvi, leader of Congress party which was ready to support a coalition led by PDP and National Conference (NC), said the group may file a case after studying the governor’s order.

According to Jammu and Kashmir’s Constitution, the governor’s order does not require Parliament’s ratification.

Before the dissolution of the assembly, former chief minister and PDP leader Mehbooba Mufti faxed a letter to the governor seeking an appointment with him to discuss government formation. She claimed support of 56 lawmakers of the PDP-NC-Congress coalition.

Sajjad Gani Lone, leader of the People’s Conference, too staked claim to form government with the support of BJP legislators and 18 other lawmakers.

Senior PDP leader Muzaffar Baig and party MLAs Imran Reza Ansari, Abid Ansari, and Mohammad Abass were willing to join a third front led by Lone.

The nearly 40-month BJP-PDP coalition rule ended this year after the saffron party parted ways with Mufti who had a soft approach to militants in the Kashmir valley. For Pakistan and the militants they support in the valley, a PDP-NC-Congress coalition government would have been a dream come true.

The governor scuttled that move fast by dissolving the suspended legislative assembly.