Rajya Sabha dy chairman polls: By abstaining from vote, PDP keeping options open for electoral tie-up with BJP

By Sameer Yasir Published 10 Aug 2018

Despite being boxed into a corner for its coalition with the BJP in Jammu and Kashmir, the Peoples Democratic Party seems to be keeping its options open for an electoral alliance with the rightwing party by deciding to abstain in the today’s elections for the deputy chairman of Rajya Sabha.

The National Conference has termed the move as a “tactical alliance” of the PDP with the BJP, despite the fact that their coalition collapsed in the state after the latter pulled out support from Mehbooba Mufti-led government citing deteriorating security situation.

Senior National Conference leader Ali Muhammad Sagar said the two parties are having ‘extra marital affair’ despite having ended their marriage and all the differences projected by them publicly were for political posturing only to befool people.

“It is obvious that the PDP still favours the BJP despite facing humiliation at the hands of none other than the Prime Minister himself. Amid the political uncertainty in the state, they (PDP) want to keep the Hindu rightwing party in good humour ahead of the next year’s general elections. Their greed for power has no limits,” the NC general secretary said.

The PDP’s decision to abstain from voting has come as a surprise for political observers in Jammu and Kashmir in the light of attacks and counter-attacks at each other by the leaders of two parties. The PDP has two members in Rajya Sabha and the National Conference has none.

The BJP is the single-largest party in the House but it falls short of the magical number of 112 to win the election by a simple majority. The election to post of the deputy chairman of Rajya Sabha was necessitated after P J Kurien of the Congress retired from the position on July 2. The election is seen as a key test for the Congress as it looks to retain the position.

While the Congress has indicated that it was ready to back a non-Congress candidate from the opposition, the Left parties have agreed on a candidate from the Trinamool Congress, which is said to be keen to have its MP as a joint candidate. The election will test the BJP’s floor management skills in the Upper House where several bills and other issues faced impediments from opposition parties.

Senior PDP leader and chief spokesperson of the party, Rafi Ahmad Mir, said the decision to abstain from the voting for the post of Rajya Sabha’s vice-chairman has taken by the party president Mehbooba Mufti.

“It is on the direction of the PDP president that our two members are going to abstain from voting in the election,” Mir said. The move will favour the BJP as the opposition will be deprived of two votes of PDP members Nazir Laway and Fayaz Ahmad Mir.

But this is not the first time after the coalition government collapsed in Jammu and Kashmir that the PDP has supported the BJP. Last month, the PDP supported the ruling party at the Centre when the party’s founding leader and lone member in the Lok Sabha, Muzaffar Hussain Baig abstained from voting on a no-confidence motion brought by TDP against the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government.

Political observers see the PDP’s ‘tacit support’ to the BJP as part of the strategy to keep its electoral options open for future alliance in Jammu and Kashmir which is presently under the Governor’s rule. The state assembly elections are scheduled to be held in Jammu and Kashmir in 2020.

The Jammu and Kashmir Congress chief Ghulam Ahmad Mir said although the PDP and BJP have ended their coalition, the former, by abstaining from the Rajya Sabha election, has insulted the people of Kashmir once again, “This abstention explains the PDP’s lust for power. Publicly, Mehboobaji castigates the BJP but her party tacitly supports their (BJP’s) candidate in Rajya Sabha. This dichotomy shows the arrogance of the PDP,” he said.

Noor A Baba, a political scientist and Dean of Social Sciences at the Central University of Kashmir said the BJP wave in Jammu has started to ebb and the electorate may favour a non-BJP party when the general elections are held in the country followed by the state assembly elections.

“The BJP is likely to face some upsets in Jammu in coming elections due to the communal polarisation that has gripped the Hindu-majority region in the backdrop of Kathua incident. Although the party will not be dependent on the PDP’s support for Lok Sabha elections, it will require the support of a regional party from Kashmir to form a government in the state. The PDP’s move to abstain from Rajya Sabha election seems to be well-calculated,” he said.( Firstpost )