As suspense over formation of new government in Jammu and Kashmir continued, PDP leader Mehbooba Mufti was today visited by Congress President Sonia Gandhi and Union Minister Nitin Gadkari for mourning but the meetings were seen with political significance.
The meetings took place even as BJP leader and former Deputy Chief Minister Nirmal Singh expressed confidence that the alliance with PDP will continue as he said the party has written to Governor N N Vohra saying it will have a discussion on whatever decision the the ally takes.
Gandhi, who arrived from Delhi, drove straight from the airport to the Fairview residence of Mehbooba in Gupkar here at 3 pm. She stayed with the PDP president for about 20 minutes and paid rich tributes to her father and former Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed who passed away last Thursday.
Gandhi, whose party ran a coalition government with PDP between 2002 and 2008, described Mufti as a "fine administrator committed to the welfare of the people" of the state and one who reflected the best of Indian values rooted in respect for diversity and anchored in tolerance.
Noting that in 2002 he had committed to provide a 'healing touch' as Chief Minister, she said, "Mufti Saheb cut across party boundaries. He was beyond party affiliations. He belonged to everybody."
Gandhi was accompanied by Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad, party general secretary Ambika Soni, state Congress chief G A Mir and party leader Saifuddin Soz.
Azad later said "there is no politics in this and no politics should be understood of this (meeting). We have come here only for condoling and there is no other motive."
Gandhi had come here as Mehbooba has had long association with her and Congress, he told reporters.
Mehbooba and her father were in Congress before floating PDP in 1999. She represented Congress once in Lok Sabha also.
Soon after Gandhi's meeting, Gadkari, Union Surface Transport Minister and senior BJP leader, visited Mehbooba to offer condolences on the demise of her father.
"It is no time to talk politics. I have come here to convey condolences on behalf of the central government," he told reporters later.
Recalling his meeting with Mufti in Delhi, Gadkari said the late PDP leader had a dream for the state which included tourism, development and infrastructure among other things.
"We will try to fulfill all the assurances given to him on Jammu and Kashmir," the minister said.
The meetings are seen as politically significant as BJP, an ally of PDP, has yet not officially extended support to Mehbooba for the Chief Ministership after Mufti's demise.
Congress earlier shared power with PDP before having a bitter split in 2008.
Gandhi's flying into here to meet Mehbooba assumes significance as there are reports that PDP and BJP are bargaining afresh over the formation of a new government.
PDP has already given a letter to Governor N N Vohra, saying that all its 27 MLAs support Mehbooba for the Chief Ministership. But Mehbooba has reportedly said that she will not take oath till the end of mourning period for her father, which is the fourth day that falls today.
Vohra on Friday had asked both PDP and BJP to convey their position on the government formation. Since BJP did not convey its position, Governor's Rule was imposed in the state.
BJP has 25 MLAs in the 87-member Assembly while Congress has 12 and National Conference has 15.
Meanwhile, Nirmal Singh expressed confidence that the alliance will continue.
"Till now we all were in mourning. We will see. There have been no discussions on that (government formation), (but) it is expected that the way things were going earlier, that (alliance) would continue. I am praying that we soon have a system in place," he said in Bijbehara, Muftis' home town.
"The party has said we want and we have written a letter to the Governor yesterday and told him that we will have a discussion on whatever decision the PDP takes," he said.
Singh said no discussions on government formation in the state have taken place between PDP and BJP so far because of the customary four-day mourning period following the demise former Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed. The mourning period ended today.
"Everyone is sad and mourning. After this, we will start discussions," he said when asked if BJP had any differences with its alliance partner over the succession of Sayeed's daughter and PDP President Mehbooba Mufti as the next Chief Minister.
Paying tributes to Mufti, Singh said Sayeed's endeavour was to provide good governance to Jammu and Kashmir.
"There is a huge responsibility now to provide good governance to people in his absence and to carry forward what he achieved in the last 10 months.
"A huge void has been created by his demise. Though he is not physically present now, his work and memories are before the people of Jammu and Kashmir and that needs to be carried forward," he said.