Practically, the life of the Assembly elected in December 2014, which assumed its formal shape in March 2015, is having 30 months more left to its life. This is a big period, but not as a big period that no call can be taken on its fate.
Governor Satya Pal Malik, a seasoned politician, must have weighed pros and cons of keeping the Assembly in suspended animation before taking a call on its dissolution or otherwise. There is neither established convention nor any constitutional limit on the life of the Assembly under suspended animation. Although Jammu and Kashmir is having its own constitution and there is a provision that says that the Governor is bound to dissolve the Assembly on the advice of the Chief Minister. That's what Mr. L K Jha had done when the then Chief Minister Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah had recommended the dissolution of the Assembly. The Sheikh Abdullah government had come into a miniscule minority for his party National Conference had only three members, including himself, in the House. He owed his government to Congress. And Congress had withdrawn the support.
The present scenario is different. On June 19, when BJP withdrew the support to the PDP led Government headed by Mehbooba Mufti, she did not recommend the dissolution of the Assembly, nor did she attempt to form a government by exploring the support from the other parties. And at the same time, she did not seek time from the then Governor N N Vohra to show her strength on the floor of the House.
Politically, she did what her predecessor and veteran political leader Farooq Abdullah had done on January 18, 1990, when he resigned against the appointment of Jagmohan as Governor. He had submitted his resignation to the then outgoing Governor Gen. (retd) K V Krishna Rao. But his resignation letter drafted around midnight of January 18, 1990, was silent on the fate of the Assembly – that time the Assembly elected in March 1987 had had more than 36 months of life left. Gen. Rao left the decision on the resignation of the Farooq Abdullah government and the fate of the Assembly to his successor Jagmohan
Jagmohan, who took over on January 19, 1990, accepted the resignation of the Farooq Abdullah government and kept the Assembly under suspended animation. The January 1990 approach was different from the one that he had chosen in July 1984, when he presented a case of fait accompli to Farooq Abdullah and installed a government of National Conference defectors, supported by Congress. But in 1990, he did something extraordinary. He dissolved the Assembly on February19, 1990, on his own taking everyone by surprise, including the Centre. That time a new convention was set up. The dissolution of the Assembly in J&K would be possible with the consent of the Central government.
Now coming back to the current status. Now the Governor rule is more than three-month –old and there appears to be no possibility of its coming to an end anytime soon. The suspended Assembly enables the MLAs to enjoy their status as the elected representatives. They are inaugurating the developmental works and making announcements, and also spending their constituency development funds. Some of them are former ministers from the PDP and BJP. They are going around almost in the same regal style.
Former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti has argued that she had not recommended the dissolution for she did not want any void. The plea was that the MLAs would continue to act as a bridge between the people who had chosen them and the Governor's administration. That is fair enough. But there are consequences that are staring at her and PDP.
This suspended animation status is an allurement for the ambitious people within various parties, particularly BJP, to enjoy the full term of the Assembly. Though there is no legal limit as to how long the Assembly can be kept in suspended animation, but the ambitious people want the revival of the government.
Mehbooba Mufti has declared that she would not ally with the BJP again. That means that the renewal of the Mehbooba Mufti led PDP- BJP combination is out of question. That is what her argument suggests. The second option is that BJP would seek to form the government. That is a possibility. BJP has been saying too many things after it engineered the fall of the PDP led coalition government. It is also toying with the idea of a Hindu Chief Minister from Jammu to fulfill its goal of having its own Chief Minister. The real difficulty it faces is that the numbers are not adding up to form the government. But it is also looking at the option of forming a minority government with an articulate person like Dr Jitendra Singh to deliver a emotional and pro-Hindu and Jammu speech before calling off the innings in the State government.
Satya Pal Malik must be aware of these situations. But he has thrown ball in the court of the Centre on dissolution of the Assembly – that is what he could do to keep things stable as long as the House is in suspended animation.