Sunday, October 20, 2002, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


M A I N   N E W S

Manmohan to hold talks with Mufti
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, October 19
In a move to break the political stalemate in Jammu and Kashmir, the Congress today decided to send senior leader Manmohan Singh to Srinagar tomorrow for holding talks with PDP chief Mufti Mohammed Sayeed on firming up a coalition government in the state.

The decision to send Dr Manmohan Singh to Srinagar was taken by Congress President Sonia Gandhi after consultations with senior party leaders including Jammu and Kashmir PCC chief Ghulam Nabi Azad. This was the second meeting of Mr Azad with Mrs Gandhi since he came from Srinagar yesterday.

By sending a senior leader like Dr Manmohan Singh to meet the PDP chief and Independents, the Congress wants to convey its sense of purpose and urgency in trying to forge a coalition. Dr Manmohan Singh’s visit could be the last-ditch effort to persuade Mr Sayeed to form a coalition after which the Congress is likely to go ahead with its alternative plans to form a government.

Congress general secretary Ambika Soni said the decision to send Dr Manmohan Singh to Srinagar had been taken as part of the party’s efforts to consolidate forces which had won elections against the National Conference.

Asked whether the Congress would insist on chief ministership, Mrs Soni avoided a direct reply, saying that talks would also be held on a common minimum programme.

On the Governor’s statement that the October 21 deadline was no more relevant in the formation of the next government, she said the party was aware of it and was trying to expedite government formation as it was the desire of the people of the state”.

Mrs Soni steered clear of the PDP charge that the Congress was responsible for the continued stalemate, saying that she would not like to say anything on the matter as the process of consultations was on with like-minded parties and independents.

People’s Democratic Forum chief Mohammad Yusuf Tarigami also met Mrs Gandhi here today. Sources said he favoured another round of talks with Mr Sayeed to firm up a coalition government.

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