March 2007 News

Congress, PDP activists trade charges over troop cut standoff

26 March 2007
Indo-Asian News Service

Srinagar: The standoff between Jammu and Kashmir's ruling coalition partners - the Congress and the People's Democratic Party (PDP) - over troop cut in the border state has led to a no-holds-barred exchange of allegations between the leaders and supporters of the two parties.The PDP has demanded that the security forces be withdrawn from the militancy-hit state and the special powers granted to armed forces be revoked. While it has threatened to walk out of the coalition if its demands were not met, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh last week held talks with PDP patron and former chief minister Mufti Mohammed Sayeed over the contentious issue.'They must get out if they cannot behave as responsible alliance partners. The PDP ministers don't attend the cabinet meetings, but continue to issue orders regarding transfers and so on when it suits them. This is unfortunate,' said Ali Muhammad Bhat, the Congress legislator here.Many Congress supporters have openly started accusing the PDP ministers of corruption in the state.'The chief minister had to put into abeyance orders issued by ministers without any cabinet approval. This was done because there were reports the PDP ministers had accepted huge considerations for issuing such orders,' said a middle-rung Congress leader here.Senior Congress leader Mangat Ram Sharma told media persons that the PDP would have to eat a humble pie over its demand of demilitarisation and repeal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act.The PDP supporters, however, say that their leadership has raised the demand for the sake of the welfare of the people.'The problems faced by the common man because of the presence of the security forces at every nook and corner, even in areas where the security situation has remarkably improved, must not be ignored,' said Ghulam Muhammad Wani, 67, a PDP activist here.The problem for the PDP is that its leaders have raised the pitch so high over these issues that their party would have to cut a sorry figure in the public in the absence of any symbolic concessions from the central government.'The problem is that the Congress cannot grant any immediate concession to the PDP as its rivals in the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) would exploit such a move during the election campaign in Uttar Pradesh,' said a political analyst here. 'The PDP cannot return empty-handed and live on the promise of a committee that would review the situation later. Even if the storm between the two is temporarily subdued, I think the ruling coalition in the state is ideologically over.'


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