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J-K polls: Cong non-committal on alliance with PDP
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

Saifiddin Soz When the right time comes, we shall sit again and consult each other. As of now, we are committed to the PDP only on the common minimum programme. — Saifiddin Soz, J-K Cong chief

New Delhi, April 8
Ahead of the Assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir, the Congress is on its guard on the issue of political alliance. Ruling out the possibility of early polls in the state, president of the Jammu and Kashmir Congress unit and union minister of water resources Saifiddin Soz today said the ruling Congress-PDP coalition would run its full course. He was, however, non-committal on whether the Congress would forge any pre or post-poll alliance with People’s Democratic Party (PDP).

“When the right time comes, we shall sit again and consult each other at the levels necessary. As of now, we are committed to the PDP only on the common minimum programme,” Soz today told The Tribune in an exclusive interview, referring to rifts between the partners on the troop withdrawal issue.

It is another matter that both the Congress and the PDP might find the going in Jammu and Kashmir tough, considering PDP’s political clout is mainly limited to the Valley and the Congress has a greater presence in Jammu. In the last elections, the Congress had bagged 20 seats, with the PDP taking 16. The National Conference, which had bagged 28, is banking on anti-incumbency this time.

The Congress is, however, unruffled with its state president today saying: “Anti-incumbency will not hold good in our case. The Congress is the only secular option people of the state have. We can sell the idea of workable pluralism by warding off dangers Kashmiri society faces from parties like the BJP.” Soz claimed the Congress alone had the “talent and tradition of service” required for the realisation of aspirations of the people of Jammu and Kashmir.

Ruling out competition from regional parties, he said such parties had no major reach in the state. The National Conference had lost credibility on all fronts including autonomy for Jammu and Kashmir, Soz claimed adding that the Congress had a bright future in the state and would go to polls with development as its main plank.

There is a congenial atmosphere for our return to power in the state, Soz said, indicating clearly that the Congress would not interfere with troop deployment in the Valley though it would like to see some expansion in the role of the Jammu and Kashmir police, which understood the local language.

Terming PDP’s demand for troop withdrawal as a “theoritical proposition”, Soz said such demands did not bother the Congress. He, however, sounding a bit uncomfortable with the coalition partner’s idea of self-rule. The Congress would be ready to come to any acceptable means for solving the Kashmir problem, provided it was in national interest, he said, adding, “As of now, the PDP has been raising the self-rule issue at its rallies. If they bring it to the union government, we will be ready to talk.” On the new political arrangement in Pakistan, Soz said the Congress would deal with it “comfortably”.

That apart, the coalition partners in Jammu and Kashmir have had some trouble navigating the dicey turns of coalition politics, with the PDP giving the Congress tough time on the troop withdrawal issue. The PDP has consistently favoured troop withdrawal from the state, with its president Mehbooba Mufti even slipping past Z plus security to send out signals in favour of PDP’s demand. Congress Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, on the other hand, has said the politicians were being “emotional” in making such demands - read withdrawal of troops.



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