While nearly a month has passed since Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed's demise on January 7, nobody has ascended to the seat of power in the politically volatile state even though Mehbooba Mufti has been projected as next CM of the state.
The reason behind the standstill lies within the shaky arrangement between Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to rule the state after a fractured mandate in 2014 assembly polls had thrown up a hung assembly. The PDP fearing that many of the promises agreed on by the parties weren't fulfilled by the BJP in the central government during Sayeed's 10-month tenure, it is now seeking assurances from BJP that it will follow the jointly-devised Common Minimum Program (CMP) in future.
What has transpired till now since Mufti's death
Since Sayeed breathed his last in New Delhi on January 7, his daughter, Mehbooba, has been seen as the obvious successor. But Mehbooba has taken her time so far; first to mourn her father's death and then to deliberate upon what path should she choose.
But why is Mehbooba not taking charge?
When the results of 2014 assembly polls in the state were announced, there was clear cut division in the mandate on the basis of region. While Kashmir-centric PDP got 28 seats, Jammu-centric BJP, for the first time in its history in the state, won 25 seats. No party got a majority in the 87-member Assembly to form the government.
So after months of vociferous deliberations and discussions, PDP and BJP decided to come together in March 2014 o form the government. However, the framework drawn up by the two partners, called the 'Agenda of Alliance', provided a mechanism for two ideologically polarized parties to share power in which both would give up their postures on certain 'controversial issues.'
But Mehbooba has held out from renewing the alliance purely over past grievance and future promises, since the PDP now realises that a majority in their core constituencies is not happy with the BJP alliance.
Fundamentally, the PDP wants BJP to not deviate from the alliance document that promises many Kashmir-centric initiatives that require funding from the central government. And in a state with a strong separatist movement, the controversies just refuse to end. From the release of separatist leader Masarat Alam to the beef ban, PDP couldn't stop the right-wing from influencing Kashmiri politics.
As a result, and due to the previous track record of the BJP, the PDP perhaps fears will its future is doomed in Kashmir.
It might also explain why Mehbooba, during her meeting with state governor NN Vohra on Tuesday on government formation, put the ball in the BJP's court by seeking "Confidence Building Measures" from the central government "to create an atmosphere congenial for formation of the new government."
On the other hand, BJP says that they haven't received any formal proposal from PDP, while also making it clear that nothing will be added to the jointly-agreed document 'Agenda of Alliance.'
So what now?
As of now, the suspense over government formation continues in the governor-ruled state. However, only time will tell how much each party stands to lose if they decided to break the coalition. The BJP made it clear on Tuesday that there's no time-frame for the process.
Till then, the gridlock will continue.
(With PTI inputs)
Feature image source: PTI