October 2002 News

Mufti to be J&K’s first rotational Chief Minister

26 October 2002
The Statesman

New Delhi: Mufti Mohammed Sayeed will be chief minister of a Congress-PDP coalition government in J&K, but a Congress leader will take over for the last three years of the term. Mrs Sonia Gandhi today agreed, after a 16-day war of nerves, to let the PDP chief lead the government, citing “wider interests” of the country and the state. The deputy chief minister will be from the Congress. Mr Ghulam Nabi Azad is likely to step down as CLP leader and allow a Congress MLA to take up the post. The new government will adhere to a common minimum programme. The immediate casualty of the the 21-member Congress and 16-member PDP forming a coalition will be the bargaining power of many an Independent and the Panthers Party — which had been itching for a ‘‘kill’’ otherwise. The prospect of a relatively stable government in the sensitive state will be the likely gain. Mr Sayeed has finally achieved his life-long ambition, and for his three-year old PDP this is the crowning glory. For many Congressmen, waiting to see a party government this was a disappointment, especially after PCC chief Mr Azad virtually arm-twisted Mr Sayeed to return to the dialogue table by threatening to begin a ‘‘poaching operation’’. Though Mrs Gandhi and her advisers will now try to project the deal as an example of their ‘‘political maturity and and selfless sacrifice’’, they may not be able to totally convince the hardliners in their party. The Congress’s eagerness to have the PDP for a stable government in a state where Indian diplomacy has much at stake seems to have prompted Mrs Gandhi’s decision. Senior leaders, Mr Arjun Singh and Dr Manmohan Singh, reportedly suggested a ‘‘harmonious’’ government formation given the sensitivity of the state. The decision was taken at 10 Janpath this evening at the end of day-long talks.


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