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In J&K, government formation in remains a puzzle

SRINAGAR: Government formation in Jammu and Kashmir remained a puzzle Thursday with the BJP looking for a partner among the state's mainstream parties but the National Conference (NC) has virtually ruled out a tie up with the saffron party.

BJP, the second largest party with 25 members in the 87-strong Assembly, first explored the option of tying up with NC which has 15 MLAs. The leadership of the two parties is believed to have held discussions which made no headway.

There were persistent reports that the outgoing Chief Minister and NC working President Omar Abdullah met BJP President Amit Shah in New Delhi last night but BJP denied that.

A senior NC leader, speaking on the condition of anonymity, made it clear that his party had strong fundamental differences with BJP and that the possibility of NC joining hands with the saffron party was "next to nil".

Jammu and Kashmir BJP president and MP Jugal Kishore interacts with media during a press conference at party media office in Jammu on Wednesday. PTI

This was also borne out by brief comments of Omar who insisted that his surprise offer to support PDP, NC's arch rival, stood and he was waiting for PDP to respond. "The offer made to PDP is a serious one and was not made lightly. It was for them to take a call," he told PTI.

Senior BJP leader and Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley flew to Jammu to meet the newly elected party MLAs and said thereafter that his party would play a crucial role in government formation as it had the highest popular vote.

The BJP had the "veto power", said Jaitley who was accompanied by party General Secretary Ram Madhav who later flew here tonight to explore possibilities of government formation.

Meanwhile, PDP's silence, reflective of its dilemma, continued with no indication as to whether it would go with BJP or accept the support of the National Conference and the Congress which has 12 members.

The Congress continued to woo PDP with its state President Saif-ud-din Soz urging PDP head Mufti Mohammed Sayeed to lead a coalition of like-minded parties or groups. "That way alone the people's verdict will be respected," Soz said.

People's Democratic Party (PDP) leader Mehbooba Mufti, center, addresses the media at her residence in Srinagar, India, Tuesday, Dec. 23, 2014. AP

Another senior Congress leader, Ghulam Nabi Azad, said that PDP had enough numbers along with Congress and NC to keep BJP out of the government. "Kashmir (valley) has rejected BJP and to keep it out of power there was heavy polling. Any tie up with BJP will be betrayal," he said.

But Mufti’s continued silence, three days after the poll results threw up a hung Assembly, is attributed to divisions within his party on a tie up with BJP.

Even in NC, there was opposition any tie up with at least one key MLA, Aga Syed Ruhullah, a prominent Shia leader, said "we are not in favour of an alliance with the BJP. I have made my opinion known to the party leadership in this regard." He, however, said he had only apprised Omar about his views and not written any letter as reported by media.