The disgruntled MLAs of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) are looking to float a third front to form the government in Jammu and Kashmir, even as the Assembly remains under suspended animation under Governor's Rule in the state.
PDP's Zadibal MLA, Abid Ansari, said he was in touch with the party's Rajpora MLA and former state finance minister Haseeb Drabu, discussing the possibility of establishing a third front to form the state government. "Drabu saheb is in Mumbai. We will hold a meeting after he comes to Srinagar," Ansari said. "We don't want to be part of the PDP run by (former chief minister) Mehbooba Mufti and will float a new party."
Ansari, his nephew and Pattan legislator Imran Ansari, and Tangmarg MLA Abbas Wani have said that the PDP president was running a "dynastic rule". Imran Ansari said he had already dissociated from the party.
There is a possibility of the third front allying with either the National Conference-Congress combine, or even with the Bharatiya Janata Party — PDP's former alliance partner in the state — to stake claim to form the government in Jammu and Kashmir.
However, former minister and senior NC leader Nasir Aslam Wani said his party had told Governor NN Vohra that the Assembly should be dissolved, but "people from other political parties, including the PDP, can join the NC to contest the elections". "We are not in the race for government formation," he added.
Sources said that the Congress has sought the opinion of all its MLAs who have expressed that they are willing to be part of a secular alliance in Jammu and Kashmir. Earlier, there was a possibility of the PDP and Congress joining hands to form the government in the state with the support of independent MLAs, but the chances of that now seem bleak with the rebellion in the PDP.
A party or coalition needs the support of 44 MLAs in the Assembly to form the government, and the NC and Congress together have 27 — 15 National Conference legislators and 12 Congress MLAs. For the third front to form the government in Jammu and Kashmir, they would have to cobble together at least 17 more legislators.
Sources said that Drabu's proximity with the BJP as well as Jammu and Kashmir People's Conference (JKPC) leader and former minister Sajad Lone point to the possibility of a BJP-third front alliance in the state. BJP national general secretary and Jammu and Kashmir in-charge Ram Madhav was in Srinagar recently, when he discussed government formation with Lone. To form the government with the BJP and JKPC, the third front would need the support of at least 17 MLAs. The BJP has 25 MLAs in the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly, and the JKPC is represented by two.
A split in the PDP is imminent as other MLAs, including former state rural development minister Abdul Haq Khan, former minister and Noorabad MLA Abdul Majeed Padder, have also openly spoken against the party.
Although a one-third split of any political party is treated as illegal under the Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir, Abid Ansari said there was "nothing that prevents them from creating a real new party".
Disqualifying the members from the House depends on Speaker of the Legislative Assembly Nirmal Singh, and a lengthy court case on any order of defection would only leave room for a government formation with even less than a two-third majority.
Under the state Constitution, only two-thirds of the members of a political party can merge with any other front or form a new party after the merger.