M A I N   N E W S

Cong in no hurry, weighing all options
Anita Katyal/Vibha Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 29
Having been cast in the role of kingmaker, the Congress leadership was in the throes of an intense debate on which party to support for the formation of a government in Jammu and Kashmir, as a section in the party expressed its reservations about joining hands with the National Conference.

Congress president Sonia Gandhi consulted former J&K CM Ghulam Nabi Azad and state party president Saifuddin Soz this evening even as National Conference chief Omar Abdullah reached Delhi to formally seek Congress’ support on forming the next government in the border state. A final decision on the issue could take a day or two, as Sonia is slated to hold detailed discussions on government formation with senior party leaders tomorrow.

Although the NC (28 seats) and the Congress (17 seats) together have the numbers to form the government, there is a section in the Congress that has advised the party not to slam doors on the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), with which it ran a successful coalition government until a few days ago.

Those who do not favour a tie-up with the NC have warned against leaving the opposition space to the PDP, which lately has been espousing a strident separatist line, and communal party like the BJP, which now has a sizeable presence in the Assembly with 11 legislators.

“By keeping the PDP out, we can actually end up strengthening the separatist forces... J&K is a sensitive state and various factors have to be considered before taking the final decision,” remarked a senior Congress leader. It is being argued that the Congress had consciously chosen to align with the PDP after the last election even though the NC had emerged as the single largest party.

On the other hand, the Congress is also mulling the ramifications of keeping a nationalist party like NC out of power for another six years. In case of another stint in the opposition, the NC could well wither away and that, according to a section in the Congress, would not be in the interests of J&K, as “a state like it needs a centrist party like the NC”. While the Congress is still discussing the pros and cons of going with the NC or the PDP, NC chief Omar Abdullah appeared confident and said he had received “positive signals” from the Congress on government formation.



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