PDP, BJP inching towards government formation: Sources

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Srinagar/Jammu, Dec 28: The deadlock over government formation in Jammu and Kashmir may end soon, with both PDP and BJP insiders saying the two parties were close to striking an agreement.

A Peoples Democratic Party source told IANS that the two parties were close to an alliance to give the country's only Muslim-majority state a government following a hung 87-member assembly.

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PDP leader Mufti Muhammad Sayeed would be the chief minister of the coalition government, according to the party source.

"Yes, the two parties are close to reaching a final understanding," the source told IANS.

The PDP also wants the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, which gives sweeping powers to security forces, to go and the multi-regional, multi-ethnic, multi-religious identity of the state to be protected.

"As per the terms of the arrangement that are in the final stage, Mufti sahib would be the chief minister. The state would have a BJP deputy chief minister with six PDP and eight BJP cabinet ministers," the source said.

"The arrangement would be for the six-year period which is the tenure of the state assembly."

A Bharatiya Janata Party insider told IANS that his party was determined to be a part of the next government in the state but did not authenticate what the PDP source said.

"We are sure no ruling alliance can be formed in Jammu and Kashmir without our direct participation," the BJP source said.

PDP spokesman Naeem Akhtar said his party was trying to strike the best deal for all the three regions of the state - the Muslim-dominated Kashmir Valley, the Hindu-majority Jammu region and the mainly Buddhist Ladakh.

He declined to give further details.

"As the single largest party we respect the support offered to us by other parties," Akhtar said while commenting on the offers from the National Conference and the Congress.

Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad, a former chief minister, had hinted at a grand alliance among the PDP, the Congress and the National Conference.

Congress sources here said party president Sonia Gandhi had spoken to PDP leader Sayeed.

The PDP has 28 members and the BJP 25 in the 87-member house. For staking claim to form government, 44 members are needed.

The National Conference and Congress have 15 and 12 seats respectively.

Governor N.N. Vohra has sent separate letters to both the PDP and the BJP inviting them to discuss government formation.

The term of the outgoing assembly ends Jan 16.

IANS

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