Mercenaries will be dealt with an iron hand : Azad
29 October 2002
The Daily Excelsior
Jammu: PCC (I) president Ghulam Nabi Azad said here today that the new Government will deal sternly with the foreign mercenaries while adopting a ‘lenient approach’ towards the local ‘boys’ (the local terrorists). Addressing his first press conference at a new look PCC (I) headquarters after missing out in the race for Chief Ministership, Azad said there were a two set of militants in Jammu and Kashmir. ''While the new Government will deal with the foreign terrorists with an iron hand, it will have a ‘different agenda’ for the local terrorists'', he asserted. When pointed out by a newsman that this was not the approach of his coalition partner (the PDP), he shot back :''we are a party to the coalition''. ''If we go on killing the local terrorists, it would alienate a large section of local population'', he said, adding ‘the foreign mercenaries will, however, have to be finished. There can’t be two opinions about that’. To a question about allegedly equating the security forces personnel and the terrorists in the Common Minimum Programme (CMP) in the matter of compensation and other relief, the PCC (I) president, who arrived here today from New Delhi, clarified that the relief a security personnel’s family gets in the event of his killing in a militancy- related incident was much more while family of the militant killed will only get rehabilitation, which is a social problem. ''If we don’t take care of this, about two lakh children will be rendered destitutes in the event of over 20,000 militants killing'', he said. Denying that election manifesto of the Congress (I) has been ignored in the CMP, Azad said 23 out of a total of 33 paras (of the CMP) were part of his party’s manifesto. ''We are committed to fulfill our election manifesto—be it development of the State, removal of regional disparities, relief to the border migrants, compensation for land and crops or other issues'', he declared. ''We have compromised with the post of Chief Ministership but we haven’t compromised on our election manifesto. Promises made to all three regions will be implemented in toto'', he said. Appreciating the sentiments of Congressmen in general and the people of Jammu in particular for sacrificing the post of Chief Ministership, Azad, who will leave for Srinagar tomorrow to accompany Mufti when he stakes claim for the Government formation before Governor, said the Congress rose to the occasion and took an ‘extra ordinary decision’ which no other party could do. ''The occasion demanded a decision of political sagacity and statesmanship as not only the nation but entire world was looking towards the Congress party. And, our leader (AICC president Sonia Gandhi) acted accordingly'', he pointed out. Azad said the Congress had four options after the electorate gave fractured verdict in the Assembly elections. ''Option number one was to take support of the National Conference but we didn’t want that as the previously ruling party had been voted out and such a decision would have been against the wishes of the people. Option number two was that the PDP joined us as a coalition while option three was that we took PDP support from outside. The PDP didn’t agree to both the options. Fourth option was to go ahead with a minority Government'', he elaborated. Asked whether the Congress (I) had planned to take support from the National Conference after their talks were dead-locked with the PDP, the PCC (I) president quipped :''once you open the options, anything can happen''. He said even a minority Congress Government would have survived''but we didn’t feel it right to keep other elected blocks out of the decision making process''. ''I must take the onus on me that it was not feasible to fight National Conference, PDP, Centre, Pakistan and the terrorists together. Moreover, there would have been a threat of the people going in and out'', he asserted. ''The Congress decision was aimed at giving a stable Government to bring the people out of morass and give them a real governance as most of the problems presently faced by the State were result of non-governance. We did it in the interest of the country'', Azad said. Asked whether the PDP Government was in the interest of the country and not a Congress Government, he said: ''in the interest of the party we could have formed a minority Government but then we should have to forget the stability, governance and performance. But we took the decision (of making PDP president Mufti Sayeed the Chief Minister) in the country as well as State’s interest. Nevertheless, it would be a Congress-led Government in the State after three years. ''If the people of Jammu could wait for 55 years and the leaders of Congress for 27 years to get their Government, they can wait for next three years as well''. Azad said the Congress had faced similar problems earlier also and always came upto people’s expectations. ''We had asked our Chief Minister in Mizoram to step down and handed over the power to Laldenga to restore peace in the State. Today, Mizoram was one of the peaceful States in the country'', he added. ''We also gave a chance to Sheikh Abdullah in J&K and Akalis in Punjab. Though we might differ with NC but we brought them to the mainstream'', he said. Replying to a question about his previous statement that there would be no witch- hunting and a CMP resolution that an inquiry would be ordered into the complaints against Chief Minister, Ministers and MLAs, the PCC (I) president said ‘there was no denying the fact that the bureaucrats took unnecessary advantage of the situation during Chief Minister’s trips abroad. ''Everybody has to be accountable be they politicians or big buildingwallahs'', he declared. Regarding modalities of the Government formation, Azad said the respective leadership of the coalition partners would decide their Ministerial nominees. He, however, declined to spell out details on the number of Ministers to be inducted in the Government. He said the Congress Ministerial candidates would be decided by him in consultations with Congress chief Sonia Gandhi. The Ministry wouldn’t be a jumbo, he added. ''Sonia has advised me that Ministry in J&K should be an example for the country. Continuation of the Ministers would depend on their performance, honesty and integrity'', Azad said, adding ‘we had promised a corruption free Government to the people and we are bound to that. The Chief Minister designate is also of the same opinion’. He said the names of Deputy Chief Minister, Chairman of Co- ordination Committee and Speaker, the three posts which the Congress got as per the Government sharing formula, will also be decided by Sonia Gandhi. In reply to a question, Azad said the Congress (I) had no reasons to doubt that the PDP would deviate from the coalition agenda. He said there was no immediate need to elect a CLP leader. Others present in the press conference included Mangat Ram Sharma, Amrit Malhotra, chief spokesman, Madan Lal Sharma, Raman Bhalla, Yogesh Sawhney, Jugal Kishore, Ghulam Mohd Saroori and Suman Bhagat, all MLAs and Choudhary Aslam.