M A I N   N E W S

PDP to pull out of J-K Govt?
S.P. Sharma
Tribune News Service

Jammu, March 18
Adding uncertainty to the continuance of the Congress-Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) coalition government in Jammu and Kashmir, PDP ministers today again boycotted the cabinet meeting convened by Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad. This is the third consecutive cabinet meeting that has been boycotted.

The PDP ministers have been boycotting the meetings of the cabinet in a bid to build pressure for the gradual pullout of troops from the Kashmir valley and repeal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA).

None of the four cabinet ministers belonging to the PDP reached the venue at the scheduled time of 9.30 am.

Tourism minister Dillawar Mir, when contacted at 11.30 am, said he was sitting at home. Environment and forest minister Qazi Afzal said he was in Srinagar on the directions of the Chief Minister to supervise snow-clearance operations. Agriculture minister Abdul Aziz Zargar was busy meeting the people of his constituency while the cabinet meeting was in progress.

Initially, it was believed that the PDP might soften its stand following party patron Sayeed receiving a reply from PM Manmohan Singh to his letter regarding these demands.

However, today’s attitude indicates that the party might take some drastic step, when its Political Affairs Committee (PAC) meets at Srinagar on March 25 to discuss the future course of action.

On the other hand, significance is being attached to the unscheduled meeting of Azad with Governor S.K. Sinha yesterday.

Sources said Azad, among other things, briefed the Governor about the political situation that has been created by the “unfriendly” postures of the PDP.

Sources indicated that Azad was contemplating to snatch some important portfolios from PDP ministers.

The decision of the PDP to hold a second meeting of the PAC within a month has reportedly been taken by Sayeed, after individually discussing the issue with senior leaders of the party and eliciting their viewpoint during the past two days.

During their individual meetings with Mufti, most of the party activists were in a favour of pulling out of the coalition government. Only a microscopic minority wanted the party to share power for some more time and quit shortly before the Assembly elections next year.

A senior party functionary told The Tribune that as of now, the PDP quitting the coalition was almost certain.

The PDP chief, Mehbooba Mufti, has rushed to Srinagar and convened a meeting of the district bodies of the party on March 21 to elicit their opinion on the issue. Before that, she would address a series of public meetings in the valley.

Meanwhile, state BJP chief Ashok Khajuria urged Sinha to dismiss the coalition government and order fresh elections in the state.

In a statement, Khajuria said the feud between the PDP and the Congress had created an uncertainty and the administrative machinery had come to a halt.



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