Suspense over government formation in Jammu and Kashmir following the hung verdict in the assembly elections continued on Wednesday as the People’s Democratic Party, the single largest party, and the Bharatiya Janata Party, the next big outfit, kept their cards close to the chest.
Emerging as a potential king maker with 25 seats in its bag, the leadership of the BJP met in the parliamentary board in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi after which the party said it was keeping "all options" open.
On Tuesday, the party President Amit Shah had listed the options as forming a BJP government, supporting a government and participating in a government.
It also decided to Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and National Secretary Arun Singh as observers to Srinagar in three-four days to oversee elections of legislature party leader and finalise a strategy on government formation.
The top leadership of the PDP, which emerged as the single largest party with 28 seats in a House of 87, continued their closed-door marathon consultations on its strategy.
Falling short of the majority mark, the party Patron Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and President Mehbooba Mufti deliberated with the party brass and grass root level leaders at Sayeed's residence on the options of entering into an alliance for forming a government.
While the PDP has done well in the valley, the BJP has done well in the Jammu region. The ruling National Conference secured 12 seats while the Congress notched 17.
Reflecting the dilemma and difficult choices before it in going with the BJP to form a government, the party is keeping the strategy to itself for the moment. None of the leaders spoke to the media. The chief spokesman of the party Naeem Akhtar has also kept away from the media.
The dilemma for the PDP to tie up with BJP may be its apprehensions about the possible consequences of such a coming together in the longer term against the backdrop of the sangh parivar's growing assertion over Hindutva issues and the impact they could cause in the politics of the state, especially in the valley.
The other possibility for the PDP may be going with the Congress as both the parties had run a coalition government six years ago. The Congress has so far not disclosed its strategy so far.
Mebooba on Tuesday said it will take time to explore its options on government formation, several PDP workers have impressed upon the party leadership to take lead in forming the next state government.
"We have told the party leaders that we should be leading the next government even if it means to join hands with the BJP. The mandate of the people is clearly in favour of PDP in Kashmir and BJP in Jammu," a PDP worker, who wished anonymity, said after coming out of Sayeed's residence.
On his part, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah resigned on Wednesday following National Conference's defeat and made it clear that he will adopt a "wait and watch" policy.
"It is the duty of the PDP and the BJP to form the government. Let us see what they will do," he told reporters after meeting Governor N N Vohra to whom he tendered his resignation.
"There is no reason for us to keep anyone in or out of power. As I have been saying since yesterday it is not the duty of National Conference to form the government nor is it its duty of NC to help anyone form the government," Omar said.
Apart from the four major parties, which account for 80 of the 87 seats, others have got seven seats. These include two Independents who have won with the support of NC, two of people's conference headed by Sajjad Lone, one of the Communist Party of India-Marxist and one of the People's Democratic Front (Secular) and another independent.
Omar did not categorically rule out extending support to either the BJP or the PDP for forming the government but the leaders from these parties will have to approach him.
"I am not going to visit Mufti's residence (to offer support). Amit Shah has not called," he said.
None of the newly-elected PDP MLAs, 19 of them first timers, are willing to make a comment on government formation maintaining that the top brass of the party will take a decision on the matter.
The BJP, which has 25 MLAs, on its part has made it clear that it is pushing for being part of the government and also made public that they should get the chief ministerial post in whatever coalition comes up.
"It is a historic victory of BJP, it is the victory of the people of the state and we will work for the people who showed their confidence in us. I tell you that the next chief minister in Jammu and Kashmir will be from BJP," state president of the party and MP from Jammu Jugal Kishore Sharma said in Jammu.
A National Conference spokesman said it was for the PDP to respond to the party's offer of support for forming the next government in the state.
"Omar has said that National Conference would consider extending support to PDP if such a support is sought so that PDP's political agenda, as specified by PDP during the elections, is not alleged to be handicapped in some way by PDP choosing to align with either of the two national political parties.
"We have made a gesture of support to PDP about considering extending support to them if they approach us," NC Spokesman Junaid Azim Mattu said in a statement issued today.
Congress, which has 12 MLAs, has offered unconditional support to the PDP to form the new government.
The seven MLAs from smaller parties and independents may play a key role in the next government formation.
Peoples Conference headed by separatist-turned- mainstream politician Sajad Ghani Lone with two seats, independent MLA from Langate Sheikh Abdul Rashid and PDF chairman Hakeem
Mohammad Yasin are reportedly being wooed both by PDP and BJP in a bid to stitch up an alliance where they can do without each other.
However, these reports could not be verified as even Lone, Yaseen and Rashid have remained out of reach since the results were declared on Tuesday.