Fear over defection made PDP relent?
23 October 2002
SRINAGAR: Perturbed over possible defection from its ranks, the People''s Democratic Party (PDP) has asked the Congress leadership not to shut the doors for talks on government formation. The PDP chief, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, will be visiting Delhi again on Friday to resume the talks with the Congress president, Sonia Gandhi. Sensing trouble after the Congress high command''s decision on Tuesday night not to go ahead with the talks with the PDP over government formation, as also the reported dissension in its legislature group over the issue, the party''s vice-president, Mehbooba Mufti, called up Ms. Gandhi and suggested that the talks continue. As the ground was fast turning favourable towards the Congress with all the independents and smaller parties rallying behind it, the PDP decided to go back to negotiations. Even as there is no indication of a compromise on the issue of Chief Ministership, the party is under intense pressure not to miss the opportunity which would only benefit the National Conference for which the PDP had emerged as a major threat. Mehbooba Mufti''s initiative to resume talks with the Congress is seen as a strong move to keep the flock of its 16 MLAs together. The statement of the PDP''s senior leader, Muzaffar Hussain Beig, on Wednesday had also sent alarming bells in the Mufti camp. Asked about the chances of defection in PDP, he told a local newspaper: ''I do not think that a leader of the Mufti Saheb''s experience and wisdom will allow such a situation to arise which may compel some people to party ways.'' Reliable sources told The Hindu that some of the MLAs of the PDP were thinking of crossing over to the Congress and had been putting pressure on the leadership to agree to the Congress suggestions. The Congress, which has 20 members and the support of other Independents, had offered the post of Deputy Chief Minister besides the crucial home portfolio to the PDP but is firm on leading the coalition government in the State. It had also suggested a coordination committee empowered with taking policy-decision to be headed by the Mufti. Sources say that the PDP seemed relenting; the Congress might also sacrifice some more important government positions. A common minimum programme, according to sources, was never the reason for deadlock in talks. The Congress has blamed the Union Home Ministry for the impasse.