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|March 23, 1998|
Farooq, Naidu and Mahanta form National Front
National Conference leader and Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah today announced the setting up of a new National Front comprising the NC, Telugu Desam Party and the Asom Gana Parishad.
Announcing this at a press conference in Jammu, Dr Abdullah said the Front would pursue politics of consensus and give issue-based support to the central government.
Dr Abdullah said he was in touch with Naidu and Mahanta, and that they would meet in Delhi shortly to discuss their future course on this issue.
He said he would take a decision regarding the confidence motion of the BJP-led government on March 27, only after proper consultations with Naidu and Mahanta. However, he made it clear that the National Conference would extend support to any government at the Centre which protected the interests of the people of Jammu and Kashmir as the state was dependent on the Centre in all fields.
Dr Abdullah said the Congress was pressurising P A Sangma to contest for the Speaker's post while Naidu was bent on a United Front candidate for the post. Owing to differences over the issue Naidu deliberated with the BJP and agreed on a TDP consensus candidate, he said.
''Our point of view was that if there was no consensus on the Congress candidate, let it be from the TDP which was part of the United Front'', he said.
However, since the TDP candidature did not find support from the United Front, the TDP resigned from the UF and its candidate G M C Balayogi filed his nomination for the post, with the BJP and its allies supporting his candidature. Likewise, the National Conference has also decided to support him.
On the issue of support to the BJP government at the Centre, Dr Abdullah said he would consult the NC working committee as well as leaders of the newly-formed front. He, however, said his party did not believe in dislodging any government and will extend issue-based support to any government at the Centre.
The National Conference has two members in the twelfth Lok Sabha. Of the six Lok Sabha seats from Jammu and Kashmir, the election process has be been completed in only four parliamentary constituencies. National Conference candidate Umar Farooq, Dr Abdullah's son, won the Srinagar seat while former Union minister Saifuddin Soz won from Baramullah.
Anantnag was won by Congress candidate and former Union minister Mufti Mohammed Sayeed, and the Jammu seat was bagged by BJP candidate Vaid Vishnu Dutt.
Polling in Udhampur was held on March 18, and the date of counting has not been declared so far. The Election Commission has ordered completion of the election process in Udhampur by April 15.
Polling in Ladakh will be held on June 3.
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