Amid race to form government, J&K Governor dissolves Assembly

Srinagar: Jammu and Kashmir Governor Satya Pal Malik dissolved the state assembly on Wednesday evening after rival claims to form government from former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti and People’s Conference leader Sajad Lone, who is backed by the BJP.

“Governor Malik has passed an order in exercise of the powers conferred upon him by clause (b) of subsection (2) of Section 53 of the Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir to dissolve the Legislative Assembly,” read a Raj Bhavan communique.

Earlier, two parties, the PDP and the PC, after daylong political wrangling, wrote to the Raj Bhavan on email and WhatsApp to stake claim to form the government, as the Governor’s official fax failed to respond.

Former Chief Minister and PDP president Mehbooba Mufti, in the letter, claimed that she had the support of 15 MLAs from National Conference and 12 MLAs of the Congress, in addition to her 29 MLAs, putting the total number at 56.

The state has been under Governor’s Rule since June, when the BJP ended its ruling alliance with Mufti. In a statement, the governor justified dissolving the assembly citing reports of extensive horse trading.

Here are the latest developments in the story:

  • Mufti tweeted her letter to the Governor, claiming she could not reach him through fax or phone. The former Chief Minister said she has the support of 56 lawmakers, including 12 from the Congress and 15 from the National Conference, which is expected to provide outside support.
  • Sajad Lone, however, did have a phone conversation with the Governor. “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.
  • In the 87-member Jammu and Kashmir assembly, the majority mark is at 44. Lone, whose party has two lawmakers, said he has the support of the BJP, which has 26 legislators and “more than 18 other lawmakers”. The People’s Conference was founded by Sajad Lone’s father Abdul Ghani Lone, who was killed by Pakistan-based terrorists in 2002.
  • The governor’s advice for dissolution of the assembly will pave way for elections in the state within the next six months. The tenure of the governor’s rule is ending next month, which will be followed by President’s rule.
  • Governor Malik said he reached the conclusion to dissolve the assembly 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”. The governor, sources said, 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”.
  • Senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad contradicted Mufti’s claim, 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 was quoted as saying by 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,” one tweet read. “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,” it said in another tweet.
  • Arch-rivals Mehbooba Mufti and the National Conference found themselves on the same side after Constitution’s Article 35A – the bedrock of the special status of the state – was challenged in the Supreme Court. The fight to preserve it has the backing of the Kashmiri people. The BJP has been against some of these special rights and privileges.