Thursday, October 24, 2002, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


M A I N   N E W S

Mufti relents; talks in Delhi tomorrow
Prashant Sood
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, October 23
With the Peoples Democratic Party expressing its willingness to reopen channels of communication with the Congress, the prospects of ending the two-week long deadlock over the formation of a government in Jammu and Kashmir brightened today.

The decision to restart negotiations, which had reached a dead-end in Srinagar, was taken after PDP leader Mehbooba Mufti spoke on the telephone to Congress president Sonia Gandhi in the morning today, conveying her party’s willingness to continue dialogue about the formation of the government.

Mrs Mehbooba told Mrs Gandhi that the PDP was ready to sort out the differences and formulate an agenda so that the two parties could provide a stable government in the state.

Congress leader Manmohan Singh, after a crucial meeting of the party leaders, said here that PDP president Mufti Mohammed Sayeed would go to Delhi for talks in an attempt to break the deadlock on the chief ministership issue. The PDP would also make its own suggestions, apart from discussing the proposals made by the Congress. The Congress proposals were not accepted by the PDP in Srinagar, but the party apparently reconsidered the issue.

The Congress proposal of having a rotational Chief Minister with each party having the post for three years would figure at the Mufti-Sonia meeting on Friday. The Congress, however, is unlikely to yield to the PDP demand of having the post first. The other proposal of the Congress is of giving the post of Deputy Chief Minister to Ms Mehbooba Mufti and appointing Mr Sayeed as head of the coordination committee of the two parties.

Ms Mehbooba Mufti’s telephone call came after the Congress made it clear that the party would not shy away from staking claim to form the government with the support of Independents. The PDP, which was feeling the pressure from within its own ranks, also could not ignore the signals from the NDA government at the Centre that it would prefer a Congress-led government in Jammu and Kashmir. Deputy Prime Minister L K Advani today indicated that a government with a “reasonable majority” could be formed in Jammu and Kashmir.

Senior leaders of the Congress, who met last night, had decided that the party should stake claim, but withheld a formal announcement in this regard to tighten certain loose ends since the party did not have a simple majority in the state Assembly.

The Congress has put off by a few days the exercise of staking claim to form the government in Kashmir. Mrs Sonia Gandhi had another round of discussions with the core group this morning on the latest situation in Kashmir.

Asked why the Congress was favouring another round of talks with the PDP after broadly indicating the futility of continuing this exercise, Mr Manmohan Singh said Mrs Gandhi had always been of the view that the mandate of the people should be consolidated to provide a viable and credible alternative to fulfil the aspirations of the people.

Jammu and Kashmir Congress president Ghulam Nabi Azad was also present at the meeting which took place even as PDP leaders sent signals on the need to avoid a confrontation and to work together to firm up an alliance.



How VP Singh paved way for talks
Tribune News Service

Srinagar, October 23
Former Prime Minister V.P. Singh is reported to have facilitated the restoration of talks between the Congress and the PDP to pave the way for narrowing down their differences and end the political stalemate in Jammu and Kashmir.

According to informed sources, Mr V.P. Singh prevailed upon the Congress President, Mrs Sonia Gandhi, and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) leaders, Mufti Mohammed Sayeed and his daughter, Ms Mehbooba Mufti, to resume the failed talks for the formation of a coalition government in the state.


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