T here is a new twist to Kashmir's political tale indicating that perhaps, once again, rumours could be travelling ahead of the real news in Jammu and Kashmir.
The political grapevine is once again agog that a "democratic government" would soon be formed in the state by expedient politicians resorting to the most undemocratic means of horse trading.
What has fuelled the rumour mill this time is the growing dissatisfaction within the Peoples Democratic Party (DPP) headed by former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti.
At least three of PDP's 28 MLAs in the 87-member state assembly have revolted against Mehbooba Mufti.
Influential Shia leader and former minister Imran Ansari, his uncle Abid Ansari, and Abbas Wani have accused Mehbooba Mufti of running the PDP as a fiefdom.
Imran accused Mehbooba of creating dynastic rule by bringing her brother, Tasaduq Mufti, as a minister and handing over all the affairs of governance to her relatives and cronies.
Ironically, Imran and his uncle stayed put in the PDP till it lost power in the state.
Former Deputy Chief Minister Kavinder Gupta's remarks gave credibility to reports that some deep churning was taking place in the state's political cauldron.
"We are working on something and you will come to know of this soon," Gupta's words to media within days of the BJP withdrawing from the PDP-BJP ruling alliance were initially not taken seriously.
The recent visit of BJP General Secretary Ram Madhav and his meeting with senior party leaders, in addition to Sajad Gani Lone of the Peoples Conference, finally stirred the hornet's nest.
Sajad's party has two MLAs and he has been supporting the BJP. This had earned him a ministerial berth in the previous government — out of the BJP's quota in the coalition.
Madhav's visit was followed by reports that the PDP had approached the Congress for cobbling up a new ruling alliance in the state.
Senior Congress leader and former Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad denied these reports, saying that the Congress has an all-weather friend in the regional National Conference (NC) headed by Farooq Abdullah and there was no question of aligning with the PDP.
Mehbooba Mufti also denied any knowledge about her probable meeting with Sonia Gandhi as reported by a section of the media.
While news reports and rumours about possible permutations and combinations between the PDP, the Congress and the NC are still doing the rounds, another political bombshell has hit the state. Reports of disgruntled MLAs from the PDP, the Congress and the NC breaking loose from their parties to support a BJP-led government are the latest addition to the media fever here.
Horse trading is nothing new in the state.
In 1984, a democratically-elected government headed by Farooq Abdullah was brought down by his brother-in-law, G.M. Shah.
Shah became Chief Minister by engineering defections in the NC and with outside support of the Congress.
The political upheaval was widely believed to have the blessings of then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, who had been insulted by some NC supporters during her public rally in Srinagar city.
It is common knowledge in Kashmir that Jagmohan was brought in as the state governor by Gandhi so that Abdullah was ousted through defections within the NC.
After exactly 34 years, the political rumour mill suggests that the same experiment is being tried once again with the blessings of the Centre.
The 1984 coup was staged by engineering defections within just the NC. If rumours are to be believed, the reported horse trading would this time spare no major political party in the state.
Rumours suggest defections to create a BJP-headed government would affect the Congress, the PDP and the NC as a minimum of 44 MLAs are needed to stake claim to power.
At present, the PDP has 28, BJP 25, NC 15, Congress 12 and others seven seats in the 87-member assembly that was put into suspended animation by Governor N.N. Vohra after he imposed governor's rule.
It is precisely because of the danger of horse trading that NC Vice President and former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has been demanding the dissolution of the state assembly, a chorus now joined by Mehbooba Mufti as well. Rumours may be dismissed as a mere figment of someone's imagination under normal circumstances. But not in Kashmir's topsy-turvy politics. It was initially just a rumour that his government was being toppled, which Farooq Abdullah brushed aside in 1984 till he got a letter from Governor Jagmohan that he was no longer the Chief Minister. (IANS)
(Sheikh Qayoom can be contacted at email@example.com)