March 2007 News

Amid political crisis in Kashmir, all eyes on Mufti-PM meet

20 March 2007
Indo-Asian News Service
Sarwar Kashani

New Delhi: With crisis between ruling coalition partners in Jammu and Kashmir worsening, all eyes are on the scheduled talks between the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and former chief minister Mufti Mohammed Sayeed.The talks are likely to take place Wednesday here and it is believed that Manmohan Singh, in a last ditch effort to save the coalition from falling apart, would try to persuade the Mufti to put on hold his demands for troop reduction and revocation of special powers to security forces. However, PDP sources revealed to IANS that the party 'wouldn't yield' on its demands. The mounting differences between the Congress and the PDP over these demands has threatened the very survival of the coalition government. 'PDP will stick to its principled stand at any cost, even if it means pulling out of power,' a senior PDP leader said pleading anonymity.However, the meeting between Sayeed and Manmohan Singh is being seen as a crucial one as far as the PDP's decision of continuing in the government is considered, PDP sources said. 'The Mufti may arrive in Delhi on Wednesday for the crucial talks with prime minister after which the final decision will be arrived at during political affairs committee (of PDP) on March 25 in Srinagar,' the sources said. They said that Sayeed would at least demand the setting up of a central government committee on troop reduction as a step first toward meeting the PDP's demands.Manmohan Singh had on Sunday extended an invitation to Sayeed for talks to end the growing standoff between the coalition partners after PDP ministers skipped the cabinet meeting for the third time in a row. Meanwhile, sources in the PDP said the party itself is divided over the issue. It is faced with internal bickering with some of its ministers in Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad's government and a few MLAs not willing to wreck the coalition.Going by the arithmetic of the state assembly, the coalition has the support of 54 members, including 25 of the Congress and its associate members, 18 of the PDP, four of the Panthers Party and seven independent members (three of them are ministers).The National Conference has 26 members and BJP and Jammu State Morcha one each.If the PDP withdraws support, the government will be in trouble if asked to prove its majority in the house. Even if Azad succeeds in roping in 10 independent members, he would be short of the majority by at least 15 members.However, if the National Conference (with 26 members) decides to abstain from voting, Azad will have no problems in proving majority.


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