Monday, October 14, 2002, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Mehbooba opposes Azad as CM
S.P. Sharma
Tribune News Service

Mehbooba Mufti
The daughter and vice-president of the PDP, Ms  Mehbooba Mufti. — Tribune Photo Amin war

Srinagar, October 13
The tussle between the Congress and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) of Mufti Sayeed today deepened over the issue of chief ministership of the coalition government with his daughter and Vice-President of the party, Ms Mehbooba Mufti, coming out openly against the move to install the PCC chief, Mr Ghulam Nabi Azad, in the post and has warned that the PDP will prefer to sit in the opposition in that case.

Ms Mufti said a Chief Minister from Jammu was not acceptable to the PDP because that would further accelerate militancy in the state as the people of Kashmir would get alienated from the mainstream.

This is for the first time that she has come out openly against the candidature of Mr Azad. Her father, Mufti Sayeed, who is camping at Delhi and has held a series of meetings with the Congress President, Mrs Sonia Gandhi, and other senior leaders to sort out the issue, has remained tight-lipped to avoid any confrontation at this stage. The Chief Minister, Dr Farooq Abdullah, and his National Conference has already expressed doubts whether the Congress and the PDP will manage to pull together because the ideology of both parties is different.

With both Mr Azad and Mr Mufti camping in Delhi, a meeting of the Congress Working Committee (CWC) has been convened in the national Capital this evening to discuss the ticklish issue.

In another development following the official notification of a hung Assembly, the Governor, Mr G.C. Saxena, has invited the ruling National Conference, the Congress and the PDP to come out with their claims to form a government.

In view of the tussle going on between the Congress and PDP even before the formation of a coalition government, the National Conference advanced a meeting of its working committee today. The meeting was earlier scheduled to be held tomorrow. Significance is being attached to the meeting of a prominent newly elected Independent MLA with Dr Abdullah yesterday. The NC has emerged as the single largest party with a strength of 28 in the hung Assembly of 87 members. It is followed by the Congress which has 20 members and the PDP with 16. The strength of Independents is 15, while the Panthers Party has four members, the CPM two and the BJP and BSP one each.

It is being pointed out in political circles that the NC may not hesitate to poach on the Independents and some others to form a government in case the Congress and the PDP fail to form a coalition, Dr Abdullah and his son and chief of the NC, Mr Omar Abdullah, had announced that they will not stake the claim to form a government and sit in the opposition because the verdict was against them. It is to be seen what stand the working committee of the NC now takes on the issue. Some ministers of the NC have been stressing that the NC should support the Independents to form a government.

The PDP activists said the Congress had got more seats in the Jammu region, while the PDP secured a majority of Assembly seats in the trouble-torn Kashmir valley. The Congress had itself started the number game. The PDP had gone to the people in the elections with its manifesto which made certain promises to the sufferers of militancy and to heal their wounds. Backtracking on this agenda would tantamount to crucifying those who had voted for the party, they said.

They said Mr Azad was projected as Chief Minister in the election campaign by the leaders of the Congress and at that time the PDP had no alliance with them. But in the present scenario when no party had a majority of its own, the Congress should show magnanimity and Ms Mufti made it clear that the post of the Deputy Chief Minister was not acceptable to the PDP.

It is learnt that Mr Mufti, during his meeting with Mrs Sonia Gandhi last evening, stressed that the election manifesto of the PDP should be considered as the common minimum programme of the coalition government. A copy of the manifesto was reportedly supplied to her today at Delhi. Supporters of the Mufti point out that while he was the president of the PCC in 1975, Mr Azad was appointed president of the state Youth Congress by him and how could he now accept the latter as the Chief Minister.

Qazi Mohammad Afzal, newly elected MLA of the PDP, said “we” should get chief ministership failing which we would sit in the opposition. He said the Mufti had wide experience in politics and administration as he was the Home Minister of the country and there was no match for him in the Congress here.

Mr Azad, who was scheduled to reach here this afternoon, has now extended his stay in Delhi until the controversy was settled.

Meanwhile, the Chief Secretary, Mr I.S. Malhi, along with senior officers today reviewed the arrangements for lodging of the newly elected MLAs. The new ministers will be allotted rooms in the newly constructed circuit house at Sonawar as the ministerial bungalows are under the occupation of the ministers of the NC government.Back

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