Jammu & Kashmir governor Satya Pal Malik unexpectedly dissolved the state legislative assembly late on Wednesday, ending any possibility of government formation, shortly after rival political combines said they would stake their claims to power. The state is now headed for a further spell of president’s rule after the first six-month term ends on December 19.
The governor released the communiqué of dissolution minutes after People’s Democratic Party (PDP) leader and former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti released a letter on Twitter announcing that she would seek to form the government with her traditional rivals, the National Conference (NC) and Congress. Mufti’s letter was followed by People’s Conference chief Sajad Lone’s letter to the governor on WhatsApp, putting forth a similar bid. Mufti and Lone said they used social media because the fax machine at the governor’s residence didn’t seem to be working. Mufti added that Malik was not available on the phone either.
The governor’s office said he dissolved the assembly because any government was unlikely to last long. “The coming together of such parties in a grouping is nothing but an attempt to gain power rather than to form a responsive government,” it said in a release.
The office also cited reports of “horse-trading and possible exchange of money” to get the support of legislators.
The state needs a stable government, the release said.
The security scenario in the state of Jammu and Kashmir is fragile where there is a need to have a stable and supportive environment for security forces which are engaged in extensive anti-militancy operations and are gradually gaining control over the security situation, the governor’s office said.
The political drama began unfolding in the Valley at about 3:30 in the afternoon when senior PDP legislator Altaf Bukhari announced the formation of an alliance of his party with the NC and Congress.
Earlier, both NC and Congress had demanded dissolution of the assembly to avoid horse-trading and possible poaching of legislators amid the emergence of the Lone-led front. Malik’s move scuttled any such possibility and put to rest rumors of a split within the PDP as well — veteran Muzaffar Hussain Baig was reportedly ready to lend support to Lone.
However, the dissolution was also seen as a preemptive measure to stymie any chance of the alliance forming a government, which could have been a political headache for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ahead of the election season. There was also the chance that such a government could dissolve the assembly on its own terms, wrongfooting the BJP and others.
Former J&K chief minister and NC working president Omar Abdullah criticised the governor’s move.
“JKNC has been pressing for assembly dissolution for 5 months now,” he tweeted. “It can’t be a coincidence that within minutes of Mehbooba Mufti Sahiba letter staking claim, the order to dissolve the assembly suddenly appears.”
Earlier, after meeting Bukhari at his residence on Wednesday morning Abdullah had tweeted that these were “interesting times”. Bukhari had said the parties came together to safeguard the special status of the state legally and politically.
“This is an indigenous response to an extraordinary situation,” he told ET. “Article 35 (A) and 370 are main issues. We have the support of 60 legislators. We came together for people and there is no Ashirwaad of New Delhi.”
Mufti had told a local news agency that the BJP, her former coalition partner, had failed in the state and was now engineering defections in other parties for furtherance of its political motives. Her government collapsed in June after the BJP withdrew its support.
“We three parties have decided to come together setting aside our differences on some issues for protecting Article 35A and stopping horse-trading amid tinkering with laws concerning the political identity of J&K,” Mufti was quoted as saying.
The move by the PDP, NC and Congress was precipitated by Lone’s bid to gain support. He had been striving to cobble together an alliance to try and form the government with the backing of BJP.
Former deputy chief minister Kavinder Gupta of the BJP said that the PDP, NC and Congress were coming together “on the directions of Pakistan”.
BJP state secretary Ashok Koul had told ET: “It is good if they form the government. Let them try. Let us see who will finally form the government.” J&K has been under governor’s rule since June. Satya Pal Malik took over the post in August from NN Vohra.
In the dissolved the 87-member legislative assembly, PDP had 28 members, BJP 25, NC 15, and Congress 12. Seven legislators were from other parties.
“Dissolving the assembly would be ugly and should be the last response of the governor as we have got the numbers,” chief PDP spokesperson Rafi Mir had told ET before the governor made his decision.
Here's the full text of governor's press communique:
The Governor, Jammu and Kashmir, Shri Satya Pal Malik, today issued an order dissolving the Legislative Assembly of Jammu and Kashmir with immediate effect.
The Governor came to this conclusion based on the material available to him from multiple sources. The main reasons because of which the Governor arrived at this decision are :
i) The impossibility of forming a stable government by the coming together of political parties with opposing political ideologies including some which have been demanding dissolution of the Assembly; whereas the experience of the past few years shows that with the fractured mandate that is there in the Assembly, it is not possible to form a stable government comprising of like minded parties. The coming together of such parties in a grouping is nothing but an attempt to gain power rather than to form a responsive government.
ii) Reports of extensive horse trading and possible exchange of money in order to secure the support of legislators belonging to widely diverging political ideologies just to be able to form a government. Such activities are not healthy for democracy and vitiate the political process.
iii) Serious doubts about the longevity of any such arrangement where there are competing claims of majority.
iv) The fragile security scenario in the state of Jammu and Kashmir where there is a need to have a stable and supportive environment for security forces which are engaged in extensive anti- militancy operations and are gradually gaining control over the security situation.
The Governor came to the conclusion that, in this background, he has satisfied himself that the best course of action is to dissolve the assembly so as to provide stability and security to the state and hold elections at an appropriate time so that a government with a clear mandate is duly formed.