PDP's move brinkmanship or principled stand?
1 March 2007
Indo-Asian News Service
Srinagar: A debate of sorts has started in Jammu and Kashmir after the People's Democratic Party (PDP) decided to stay away from a cabinet meet Wednesday chaired by Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad of Congress, in widening chasm between the allies of the ruling coalition.Senior PDP leader and minister Abdul Aziz Zargar had written a letter to Azad last month seeking a special cabinet meet to discuss the withdrawal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and the issue of demilitarisation in the militancy-affected state.'We stayed away from yesterday's cabinet meet as the chief minister's reply to our request is still awaited,' said a senior PDP leader here Thursday.While the PDP is believed locally to be increasing pressure on the chief minister for withdrawal of the AFSPA as a tactical move to consolidate itself in the Kashmir Valley, the Congress is mulling how its adversaries in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) would exploit the issue.'Let us focus ourselves on development and the problems of the people. Let us not indulge in election slogans before they are due,' Azad told reporters in Jammu late Wednesday while alluding to the PDP demand for demilitarisation in the state and withdrawal of AFSPA.'We cannot play to the galleries. The withdrawal of the AFSPA is directly linked to the situation on the ground. It is our informed opinion that the time is not ripe yet for such a decision. Doing that could reverse the gains the armed forces have made after offering huge sacrifices,' said a senior Congress leader here.Politics apart, the common man in Kashmir believes the PDP demand is essentially a political strategy rather than something the party would stake its future on.'It is strange that the PDP stays away from a cabinet meet even when they share power and are collectively responsible for everything the coalition government does here. Stranger still, they continue to speak of withdrawal of AFSPA and demilitarisation, both of which have been trashed by the Congress high command and yet they won't step out of the government,' said Abdul Gani Bhat, 49, a college teacher here.The man on the street is even more blunt. 'This is known as hunting with the hound and running with the hare,' said Mehraj-ud-Din, a fruit seller in the upscale Residency Road area of Srinagar.Interestingly, the opposition National Conference (NC) has been watching the growing estrangement between the PDP and the Congress with guarded silence, hoping the two reach the point of no return.'We have nothing to do with what happens between the PDP and the Congress. We shall only react at the right time,' said Mian Altaf Ahmad, former minister and senior NC leader.A political observer added: 'Given the shrewd political wisdom of the PDP leader and former chief minister, Mufti Muhammad Sayeed, the NC might have to wait longer than they expect for the two partners to reach a point of no return.'