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The Rediff Interview/PDP president Mehbooba Mufti

'It's not just a numbers game in J&K'

December 29, 2008

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A day after her party gained in terms of vote share and number of seats, People's Democratic Party president Mehbooba Mufti is sitting in Srinagar [Images], waiting and watching the political situation playing out in New Delhi [Images].

In this interview with Renu Mittal over the telephone, Mufti, whose party has 21 seats in the 87-member House, says the Congress must compare the tenures of Mufti Mohammed Sayeed, Farooq Abdullah [Images] and Ghulam [Images] Nabi Azad before taking a decision on which party to support.

Excerpts:

Now that the results are out, how do you see the situation playing out in terms of government formation and the likely political alignments?

We are happy that the PDP has not only increased its seats but also its vote share. There are a number of seats that we lost by very small margins ranging from eight to 54 votes.

The Congress holds the key to government formation. While history is with the National Conference, more recent history is with us as the PDP and the Congress ran a coalition government which ran smoothly until the last year. So it is for the Congress to see who they would like to go with, who would be the leader whether Farooq, Omar or someone from the Congress.

What would be the role of the PDP and is there any truth in the speculation that you have sent feelers to the Congress that you would be interested in a tie-up?

Our position is very clear. We are ready to sit in the opposition, play the role of a constructive and healthy opposition. It is the prerogative of the Congress to decide which party they would like to align with. It is clear that no party has a clear mandate but we have not sent any feelers.

So you are just waiting and watching the situation?

Yes, it is true, we are watching the situation.  If tomorrow the Congress and the National Conference decide to come together we would play the role of a constructive opposition.

But I just want to say that the Congress will have to go through the records before it takes a final call. There is a huge problem in the state. The BJP has a good number of MLAs, the Congress has a good presence and in the Valley, except for Srinagar where there was a poll boycott, the PDP has done extremely well.

During his tenure, Mufti saheb was able to reconcile all the three regions and carry them together but the state was on fire two-and-a-half years after he demitted office. And then there is a track record of Farooq Abdullah who had 60 MLAs and the full strength of the central government backing him. What did he achieve? Ghulam Nabi has been a leader for 32 years in Delhi but look what happened to the state after just one signature on a document [setting aside land for the Amarnath Yatra [Images]]. So it is for the national leaders in Delhi to think about all these issues.

There are strong allegations that the PDP has been supported by the organisations representing separatist sentiments�

This is the easiest thing to say about anyone. Do you think if it was true, so many people would have come out to vote, whether for good or for bad. Farooq Abdullah made the allegations that Gilani had called for a boycott and that these organisations supported the PDP. But the fact that people came out in such large numbers and that the PDP got so many seats clearly nails this lie.

People choose their party carefully. The BJP got 11 seats. And I think too much is being made out of this. In 1996 also they got 9 seats. It is a fact that come elections, the BJP takes a communal stand on most issues, be it calling our stand on the Muzzafarabad road as anti-national or even starting trade on the border.

The PDP's healing touch policy has what has led to the increase in votes and bringing people back into the mainstream.

There is reconciliation within J&K, between J&K and the rest of the country, and J&K as a bridge between India and Pakistan. So the way J&K is placed is different from the rest of the country and before taking any decision all aspects must be kept in view as it is not just the numbers game that is important here in the state.

And how do the youth of Jammu and Kashmir [Images] look at the ongoing political process?

The same people were on the road some months ago. While sentiment is an issue, governance is also a big issue. Both contribute equally. The PDP was able to strike a fine balance between the political space and solution, bringing the Hurriyat on board, keep the peace process going and taking it forward and development with roads, bridges, infrastructure and this has created the feel-good factor amongst the youth leading to an increase in the voter turnout.

And it is all this that the Congress leadership will have to look at before it takes a final decision.


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