Saturday, October 26, 2002, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Cong, PDP resume talks
Tribune News Service and agencies

New Delhi, October 25
Crucial talks on the formation of the new government in Jammu and Kashmir were held tonight between senior leaders of the Congress and PDP in a bid to break the deadlock and form a coalition in the state.

PDP leader Mufti Mohammed Sayeed, who arrived here this evening was accompanied in the talks by his daughter and party Vice-President, Mehbooba Mufti and the other Vice President Mr Muzaffar Hassan Baig.

Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Manmohan Singh, who recently visited Srinagar to hold parleys with the Mufti and leaders of other like-minded parties and senior Congress leader Arjun Singh are participating in the talks with the PDP.

Congress President Sonia Gandhi has authorised Mr Manmohan Singh and Arjun Singh to hold talks with the Mufti.

Soon after his arrival here, the Mufti struck an optimistic note on government formation by likening the difficulties in the matter to “birth pangs”.

“People of Jammu and Kashmir has given us a golden opportunity by defeating the National Conference...We should evolve a sort of consensus, a common minimum programme to face the challenge to end the turmoil in the state”, he told reporters.

Chief ministership by rotation and which party will head the new government first in Jammu and Kashmir are the major issues to be discussed during the crucial meeting.

Talking to UNI prior to the talks, Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) president Ghulam Nabi Azad said besides these two issues, final touches will be given to the common minimum programme (CMP) to bind the coalition government.

Meanwhile, Chairman of the seven-member independent legislators group, the Democratic Peoples Forum (DPF) Mohammed Yousaf Tarigami today predicted the formation of a coalition government in Jammu and Kashmir within the next few days and hoped it would be a “step towards reconciliation and settlement of issues through a process of dialogue”.

Talking to newsmen here, Mr Tarigami said he was confident that the Congress and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) would resolve their differences.

Referring to the delay in the government formation, he said, “We express our unhappiness over the state of affairs and look forward to the installation represents seven member People’s Democratic Forum, is in the capital where he met senior Congress leaders.

Hoping that a coalition government would be in place in the next few days, Mr Tarigami said here that it would be a step towards reconciliation and settlement of issues through a process of dialogue.

Mr Tarigami said that people were unhappy over the delay in the formation of government. Favouring talks on the issue of autonomy, Mr Tarigami said that the issue could not be wished away.

Among the alternatives being mentioned as compromise formula on the leadership issue between the Congress and PDP are Congress proposals of giving post of Deputy Chief Minister to Mehbooba Mufti and appointing Mr Sayeed as head of coordination committee of the two parties. There is also the proposal of rotating the post of Chief Minister for three years but both the parties are keen to have the first stint.

To fulfill the PDP’s main demand of having the Chief Minister from the Kashmir Valley, there is talk of Congress selecting one of its MLAs from the Valley to be the Chief Minister. There is also talk of Mehbooba Mufti emerging as first choice for rotational Chief Minister as she would be the first woman Chief Minister from the minority community.

In another development, Jammu and Kashmir National Panthers Party chief Bhim Singh has warned Mrs Gandhi of the “pro-militant agenda of the PDP.

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