In what was reminiscent of the hit HBO TV series Game of Thrones, high drama played out last night in Jammu and Kashmir. It started with Mehbooba Mufti, President of the People’s Democratic party (PDP), tweeting that she failed to reach the J & K Governor, Satya Pal Malik, through fax or phone to stake her claim to form the next government in the state. Ms Mufti posted her letter to the governor on Twitter. “You might have gathered from 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 strength of 15 MLAs and the Congress 12. That takes our collective strength to 56,” read the letter. A 44-seat majority is what you need to form the government in J & K. Mufti was comfortably placed to lead the state again.
Moments later, Sajjad Lone, Chairman of the People’s Conference (PC) took to Twitter. “We have sent a letter to his Excellency the Governor, staking our claim to form the government. Fax not working. We have whatsapped it to the PA to his Excellency,” Sajjad wrote. The PC chairman claimed to have the support of the BJP. The PC-BJP combine did not seem to have the required numbers but still staked a claim.
While pundits and political analysts started the guessing game about which of the two political formations might get the invite to form the next government, a bombshell dropped. The governor had promptly decided to dissolve the J & K Legislative Assembly, throwing the strife-torn valley into political uncertainty.
Before the latest development, the governor had repeatedly told several media outlets that the state assembly will not be dissolved till 2020. However as soon as Ms Mufti decided to come together with National Conference and Congress, Malik went for the kill, thereby robbing the political parties a genuine chance to form a government. To support his decision, the governor described PDP-NC efforts to stitch an alliance as “unholy”. “This was a power-hungry alliance and for self-preservation, to avoid split in their respective parties,” he noted.
The primary role of the governor is to preserve, protect and defend the rule of law under Article 159 of the Indian constitution. He or she is the administrative head of the state’s affairs. However it looks like Malik, perhaps acting on a cue, has developed a somewhat jaundiced perspective about J & K’s political parties — a trait which reeks of partisanship and overzealousness.
When pressed about PDP and NC leaders’ charge that the Governor’s House did not receive Mufti’s fax, staking claim to form government, Malik simply stated that his office was closed on account of the Prophet’s birthday. Strangely the same fax machine started purring a while later when the governor sent out the orders to dissolve the assembly.
The BJP soon sprang into action. Ram Madhav, the party’s National Secretary, alleged that the PDP and NC were following “instructions from across the border”. “Probably they had fresh instructions from across the border to come together and form the government. What they did had prompted the Governor to look into the whole issue,” he alleged.
This led to a high-profile Twitter spat between Omar Abdullah and Ram Madhav. Omar dared Madhav to either prove NC-PDP-Congress alliance was formed on Pakistan’s instructions or apologise.
At the time of writing this op-ed, no apology had come forth, and the much-talked about fax machine at the Governor House seems to be working just fine.