A warm hug and handshake between Narendra Modi and Mufti Mohammad Sayeed at the Prime Minister's residence on Friday morning set the stage for a grand swearing-in ceremony on Sunday to usher in a PDP-BJP coalition government in Jammu and Kashmir.
The ceremony to be held in Jammu in the presence of the PM will mark a new chapter in the history of New Delhi-Srinagar ties with BJP sharing power in the Muslim-majority state for the first time.
PDP patron Sayeed, 79, will take oath as chief minister along with 12 ministers each from PDP and BJP .Home Minister Rajnath Singh, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and BJP chief Amit Shah will be present along with BJP general secretaries Ram Madhav and Ramlal.
Ever since the assembly polls threw up a hung House in December, the two parties, earlier seen as “unnatural allies“, held marathon negotiations to reach common ground. The Common Minimum Programme (CMP) of the alliance will be released on Sunday and cover all controversial issues like Article 370, Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and resettlement of West Pakistan Refugees.
After Friday's meeting with the PM that lasted over an hour over breakfast, Sayeed reflected the difficulties the two sides faced during the intense negotiations, saying it was like “bringing together North Pole and South Pole“. He made it clear that the coalition was first a political alliance and then an alliance for governance.“It (the alliance) is both for political and governance -first political and then governance. Only when the political atmosphere is right can governance take place,“ the PDP veteran said.
Lauding the way polls were held in the border state, Sayeed said one of the reasons for which free and fair elections could be held in the state is that “there were no external disturbances“, clearly implying that crossborder terror activities did not come in the way of polling. Crediting Modi for the huge mandate for BJP in the Lok Sabha polls, Sayeed said, “It (mandate) gives him a golden opportunity to create an aura of peace in the region.“
He later met former PM Manmohan Singh and visited the residence of Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
Sayeed recalled Vajpayee's visit to the Kashmir valley in 2003, which broke through the chill in ties with Pakistan that had set in after the Kargil conflict in 1999.
“He (Vajpayee) extended a hand of friendship towards Pakistan, saying we can change friends but not neighbours. So Musharraf also responded. It is the dream of the Prime Minister (Modi) and mine to develop Kashmir as an `island of peace'.So, in that process, it is necessary to engage Pakistan,“ the PDP patron said.
Sayeed brushed aside contentious issues like Article 370 and AFSPA. “Leave these issues. These are not issues. We have to do all this (hame karna padta hai)... All this will come in the CMP which will be announced after the swearing-in,“ he said.