Sunday, Oct 20, 2002
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Jammu & Kashmir
By Shujaat Bukhari
SRINAGAR, OCT. 19. The imposition of Governor's rule did provide breathing time for the Congress and the People's Democratic Party (PDP) to cobble together the required numbers for staking the claim to form the next government. But the differences between the two on the issue of Chief Ministership persist, and it is likely now that the Congress may go it alone to stake the claim, but with an "understanding" with the National Conference (NC).
If the Governor, G.C. Saxena's observation that two members from Leh had denied support to any party reducing the real numbers to 85 in the 87-member Assembly, is an indication, what the Congress did under the leadership of Narasimha Rao at the Centre in 1991 may be repeated here. In that event, it may lead a minority government with an eye on possible defection from the PDP at a later stage and abstention of a sizeable number on voting day. So far, the Congress claims to have the support of 41 members, including eight from the People's Democratic Forum (PDF) and four from the Panther's Party. But it has not yet closed the doors on the PDP to make the government a stable one. While the Panther's Party has made it clear it would support a Congress-led government only, the PDF is also not left with any option but to support a Congress government since they maintain that the verdict is against the NC.
The PDP is insisting that the Chief Ministership should go to it to fulfil tall promises made by the party during the campaigning from an unconditional dialogue with the militants and the separatist political groups, to the disbanding of the Special Operations Group (SOG) and releasing all the detenus.
The party vice-president, Mehbooba Mufti, today reiterated that the post should go to her party. The Congress should relent, she insisted.
The stubborn attitude by the PDP has not been received well by the people who wanted a change in the government. And to have a Chief Minister from Doda, also known as Chota Kashmir, would not have made much difference since this Muslim majority region has always identified itself with Kashmir and not Jammu.
Indications are that the PDP's insistence on Chief Ministership may provide an opening for the National Conference though by default. In any case, the arithmetic of the Assembly is changing and the Congress after staking claim for the government with a strength of 41 MLAs could easily sail through. It can have an "understanding" with the NC which could make it possible on the day of the vote of confidence to keep at least some members away pushing through the motion in favour of Mr. Azad. The NC, which is desperate to see the PDP out of power at this stage, could well bail out the Congress, which is not a major threat for the party in Kashmir. The Panther's Party chief, Bhim Singh's meeting with the former Chief Minister, Farooq Abdullah, is seen as a pointer in this direction.
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