Congress-Mehbooba-Omar To Join Hands In Jammu and Kashmir: Sources

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An announcement on a tie-up between Congress, PDP and National Conference is expected today or tomorrow

Srinagar:

Rivals Mehbooba Mufti and Omar Abdullah may team up to form a coalition government in Jammu and Kashmir along with the Congress, sources said today, adding that talks between the three parties are "at an advanced stage", in order to stymie the BJP's attempts to take power after engineering defections.

An announcement is expected today or tomorrow.

The Congress leadership has reportedly approved a grand alliance with Mehbooba Mufti's People's Democratic Party (PDP) and Omar Abdullah's National Conference to checkmate the BJP in the state, where six-month central rule ends next month.

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The PDP has 28 legislators in the 87-member Jammu and Kashmir assembly, Congress has 12 and the National Conference has 15, which places them well ahead of the majority mark of 44.

The BJP dismissed it as a desperate attempt by the parties to keep their flock together. "Their attempts to come together will not succeed," said a BJP leader.

The BJP has been supporting a third front in the state, led by Sajjad Gani Lone of the People's Conference. While the party has just two lawmakers, reports suggest attempts to split the PDP and poach Congress and National Conference lawmakers to raise enough numbers for a majority. There is a theory that if these attempts fail, the centre will aim at state elections in March.

On Tuesday, PDP leader Muzaffar Baig, a parliamentarian from Baramulla, threatened to quit his party and hinted at a tie-up with Sajjad Lone. He did not rule out forming a government, saying there were people within his party "who want an elected government".

Mr Baig hit out at his party for boycotting the recent civic body and panchayat elections in Jammu and Kashmir, saying he will "seriously consider" joining a third front if it emerges.

On reports of the PDP and National Conference joining hands, Mr Baig said: "It will be an alliance of one religion. Jammu would not like it, Ladakh will not remain part of the state. This will lead to trifurcation of the state."

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