Invoking Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Narendra Modi, the Peoples Democratic Party on Wednesday appeared to be giving clear signals that it may not be averse to discussions on government formation with the Bharatiya Janata Party, which welcomed the gesture.
Mehbooba Mufti, leader of the PDP which has emerged as the single largest party with 28 MLAs in the 87-member assembly, met Governor N N Vohra and later said the "decisive but divided" mandate in Jammu and Kashmir was both a challenge and opportunity for Prime Minister Modi who has been talking about development.
The PDP chief met the governor in response to his invitation for discussions on government formation while the leaders of the BJP, with 25 MLAs, will meet him on Thursday.
"For the NDA government, it is a big responsibility. For Modi, it is a big responsibility. Jammu and Kashmir has been the biggest challenge for any PM right from Nehru till date," Mehbooba told reporters in apparent signals to the BJP that the two can discuss contentious issues that come in the way of the two parties coming together.
Whatever formation is firmed up, it should respect the mandate of the people and have the principle of "reconciliation", she said, adding "till that is not taken along, forming any government will be useless".
While talking about the opportunity provided by the mandate for both the National Democratic Alliance and the Congress leadership, Mehbooba referred to Modi's "dream" of development and addressing the problem of unemployment. "But we cannot have development without peaceful atmosphere on the ground," she said.
She said, "It (development) is not possible till Vajpayeeji's political process is taken forward."
Mehbooba noted that for peace in Jammu and Kashmir, Vajpayee had "started a political process. Vajpayeeji agreed to a ceasefire with Pakistan. He had started unconditional dialogue with Hurriyat. He had started a dialogue with Pakistan when L K advani was the Deputy Prime Minister. We got generous economic package. The UPA continued it for some time and then stopped it."
Welcoming her remarks, BJP General Secretary Ram Madhav said, "An initial contact has been established between the two parties" and her comments will help take forward formal discussions.
"We appreciate Mehbooba Mufti's gesture through media. We await formal initiation of dialogue," he said.
Without giving details of what exactly she discussed with Vohra, Mehbooba said, "The PDP's priority is not to cobble up a majority for the sake of government formation."
Answering questions, she cited media reports to say that the PDP has the support of over 55 MLAs. Asked why her party was not forming a government, she said, "It is not about the BJP, NC or the Congress but respect for PDP's agenda for reconciliation. If the leadership rises to occasion and takes this mandate head on, then government formation is a matter of 15 minutes," the PDP chief said.
She said if the "opportunity" is used, then Jammu and Kashmir can be a "model". In this context, she recalled the statement of Jawaharlal Nehru that the state can be a "showcase" to the world.
Image:Peoples Democratic Party chief Mehbooba Mufti