PDP pulls out of J&K government

28 June 2008
The Hindu

Srinagar: The government has been reduced to a minority. In the 89-strong House (this includes two nominated members), the Congress has 22 members and has the support of 15 Independents. The PDP has 18 members and the support of one Independent, while the main Opposition, the National Conference, has 24 members, the National Panther’s Party 4, the CPI (M) 2, and the BJP one member. Reports said the NPP extended support to the Azad government after the PDP pulled out. This will take the Congress’ tally to 41, still 4 short of a majority. It was a day of high drama, even as massive protests to press for the withdrawal of the order transferring land to the shrine board continued for the sixth day. Amid this, Mr. Azad met Governor N.N. Vohra twice in two days to discuss a compromise proposal. Sources said senior PDP leader and Deputy Chief Minister Muzaffar Hussain Baig met Mr. Azad in the morning and urged him to speed up a decision to revoke the order of transfer of 800 kanals of land to the board. But Mr. Azad is said to have cold-shouldered his deputy, who then left in a huff. After this, PDP president Mehbooba Mufti held a meeting with the party’s Ministers and other key functionaries at Mr. Baig’s official residence. The party then decided to withdraw support. Ms. Mehbooba told journalists that keeping in view the ongoing crisis and the “negligent approach” of Mr. Azad, “we were compelled to withdraw our support to the government.” All Ministers of the PDP have tendered their resignations. “We had told Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad that we would be forced to pull out of the government if the land allotment to the SASB was not cancelled by June 30, but no development took place from his side,” she said “By his attitude, it was clear the Chief Minister was in no mood to address the aspirations of the people, leaving us little option but to withdraw from the government.” She said that in such a situation her party could not remain a spectator. Praveen Swami reports from New Delhi: Mr. Azad left for New Delhi late on Saturday to hold emergency meetings with Union Home Affairs Minister Shivraj Patil and Congress president Sonia Gandhi. Home Ministry officials said the PDP’s decision had taken New Delhi by surprise. According to Ministry sources, the decision came even as Mr. Vohra and Mr. Azad were consulting politicians, including Mr. Baig, on a formula that would have addressed the concerns of Muslim protesters in the Kashmir region, without provoking a communal confrontation elsewhere in India. Experts believe the PDP’s decision may have been provoked by signs that it was being abandoned by its constituency among the religious right-wing. On Friday, the State’s Grand Mufti, Mufti Mohammad Bashiruddin — a trusted confidant of the PDP patron and former Chief Minister, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed — urged local residents to boycott Mr. Sayeed, saying he was among the “betrayers of Kashmiris who are hell-bent on selling the Valley to India.” Mufti Bashiruddin, who draws a State government salary, later raised slogans in support of Pakistan, and said he would soon launch an agitation against the “nefarious anti-Muslim and anti-Kashmiri designs of India.” National Conference workers have capitalised on the anti-shrine board protests, pointing out that the PDP had assented to the land grant decision, over which it has now brought down the government. Mr. Azad earlier released an eight-page dossier documenting the PDP’s support for the decision In an interview to The Hindu, All Parties Hurriyat Conference leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq attacked the PDP for “walking away from a crisis it helped to create.”