In a bid to thwart efforts by BJP-backed Sajjad Lone to form government in Jammu and Kashmir with the support of disgruntled legislators of PDP and other parties, the PDP, National Conference (NC) and Congress are working on an idea to set up a J-K third front to stake claim to power in the state.

The move by the Congress to set up a joint front by making the NC and the PDP bury their traditional rivalry has gained momentum as the BJP intensified its efforts to woo disgruntled legislators to join the third front led by Lone. They achieved a major success with the lone PDP MP in the Lok Sabha, Muzaffar Hussain Baig, raising the banner of revolt and indicating that he might support Sajjad Lone’s People’s Conference.

Reports indicate that J-K third front talks are on between the PDP, NC and Congress leaderships.

NC president Farooq Abdullah, who is currently in Sikkim with a Parliamentary committee, confirmed that efforts were on to form a joint front to keep the BJP out of power. Speaking to The Statesman on Wednesday over phone from Gangtok, Abdullah however said “it would depend on outcome of the talks”.

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The plan to form the third front was actually mooted by Farooq Abdullah soon after the Mehbooba government fell after withdrawal of support by the BJP, and the latter started making efforts to break the PDP and cobble up a new alliance.

When contacted, state Congress chief GA Mir said he was also not averse to the idea. Insiders in the PDP too confirmed that talks were going on in this direction and it would take a day or two to see whether the plan could work or not.

There were reports that the NC might not join the government but support the PDP-Congress dispensation from outside. With 28 MLAs of PDP, 15 of NC and 12 of Congress, their strength will be 55 in the House of 87. But two MLAs of PDP, Imran Reza Ansari and his uncle Abid Ansari, are siding with the former separatist, Sajjad Lone. However, even with these two, the BJP with its own strength of 25 MLAs will find it an uphill task to reach the magic figure of 44 to form the government.

The state was put under the Governor’s rule on 20 June, after the fall of the PDP-BJP government. The Constitution provides that the Governor’s rule can continue only for a period of six months. As the six months get over on 19 December, the state is likely to come under the President’s rule.

The then Governor NN Vohra had not dissolved the Assembly after the fall of the government, placing it under suspended animation. His successor Satyapal Malik has already said there was no move to dissolve the House. The move was seen as the Governor providing an opportunity to the BJP to cobble up some other alliance to form the government.

BJP general secretary and pointsman for J&K Ram Madhav has been making frequent trips to Srinagar and meeting Lone and other disgruntled leaders. He had reportedly made Lone break away Junaid Azim Mattu from the NC. Mattu was elected the Mayor of Srinagar after he won the municipal election.

Alleged horse trading by the BJP has set alarm bells ringing among other parties. The Panthers Party held a demonstration in Jammu on Wednesday demanding dissolution of the Assembly to prevent horse trading.

The Congress’s policy planning group for J-K had met in July to deliberate on the issue of setting up a joint front in J-K.