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J&K: Cong-PDP govt heading for a split?
Mukhtar Ahmad in Srinagar
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March 06, 2007 17:16 IST

The People's Democratic Party-Congress alliance government in Jammu and Kashmir is in troubled waters.

The shaky alliance has received yet another jolt with the realignment of political alliances in the Jammu Municipal Corporation. PDP's decision to stay away from the last cabinet meet chaired by Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad has left alliance partners licking their wounds.

The emerging Congress-National Conference alliance in the prestigious Jammu Municipal Corporation mayor and deputy mayor elections has further widened the chasm between the PDP and the Congress. The tie-up between Congress and the opposition National Conference is seen as a deeper nail in a festering wound.

Senior PDP leader and state Agricultural Minister Abdul Aziz Zargar had written a letter to the chief minister seeking a special cabinet meet to discuss demilitarization and related issues.

"The chief minister has not so far replied to our request. It was as a token of protest that we stayed away from the last cabinet meet," a senior PDP minister said.

The chief minister, however, dismissed immediate demilitarization, saying it will happen only when the situation on the ground permitted.

"Let us not try to start our election campaign so soon. This is the time to address problems of development and of redressal of people's problems," chief minister Azad said, asserting that 'nobody would be allowed to exploit demilitarization for vested political interests.'

The senior separatist leader and chairman of the moderate group of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference, Mirwaiz Omar Farooq told a congregation in the historic Jamia Mosque that 'the issue of demilitarization had already been agreed upon by India and Pakistan and some mainstream parties (including the PDP) were now trying to derive political mileage from this decision.'

But hours later, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh too ruled out immediate demilitarization in the state maintaining that the 'statement was speculation of the separatist leader.'

Even as the relations between the PDP and the Congress are at their lowest ebb since the two came together after the 2002 general elections in the state, it is highly unlikely that any of them would risk parting of ways at a time when the Congress has lost the crucial elections in Punjab and Uttarakhand, and is dependent for Independent support to form a government in Manipur.

The PDP is trying to carve out a political base in the Valley with the meetings its president, Mehbooba Mufti, held with senior Congress leaders in Delhi recently.

"That is fine as a political stratagem, but in the backdrop of the prime minister overruling immediate demilitarization, the PDP has failed to secure any concession on either the troop withdrawal issue or abrogation of Armed Forces Special Powers Act. Thus making it difficult for the party to sell either demilitarization or withdrawal of AFSPA as a populist slogan to garner public support in the Valley," said a political observer in Srinagar.

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