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HindustanTimes Fri,25 Apr 2014

Congress, NC resolve deadlock after scare of split

Toufiq Rashid & Agencies, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, January 29, 2014
First Published: 18:32 IST(29/1/2014) | Last Updated: 23:18 IST(29/1/2014)

The alliance between the National Conference (NC) and the Congress in Jammu and Kashmir on Wednesday resolved a deadlock over the creation of new administrative units after the intervention of 10 Janpath and Union minister Farooq Abdullah.

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Senior NC leader and law minister Mir Saif Ullah ruled out any crisis in the coalition, saying, “There is no difference between the NC and the Congress over the issue... There is an alliance and it will continue.”

Though the J&K CM’s father insisted that his son was “free to take his own decision”, sources said Abdullah Senior had invoked the intervention of the top Congress leadership. Congress president Sonia Gandhi and party vice-president Rahul Gandhi are believed to have told their partymen to extend support to the Omar-led government over the administrative units.

“I have not spoken to anybody. The decision is entirely Omar Abdullah’s,” Farooq Abdullah, however, told HT.

On the instructions of the Congress high command, four Kashmir ministers, who are members of a cabinet sub-committee on the new administrative units, remained closeted in a meeting that ended around 9.30pm Tuesday at the residence of Ambika Soni, the Congress general secretary in-charge  of party’s Kashmir affairs.

The meeting was also attended by health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad and Kashmir Congress president Saif-ud-Din Soz. The four ministers who attended the meeting included deputy chief minister Tara Chand, irrigation and flood control minister Sham Lal Sharma and urban development minister Nawang Rigzin Jora of the Congress, and agriculture minister Ghulam Hassan Mir, who is a Congress nominee in the cabinet.

“We met to finalise the report... It will be submitted in a day or two,” law minister Mir Saif Ullah, who is also a member of the cabinet sub-committee, said.

The state government had set up a commission which had recommended 900 new administrative units and the NC wanted to go ahead with this. The state Congress leaders had been terming the move “politically motivated as it would benefit only the NC in the Valley and damage the political base of the Congress in the Jammu region”.

Sources revealed that one way of averting the crisis was for the NC to agree to the Congress’s demand that the sub-committee recommend the setting up of 2,000 administrative units against the 900 proposed earlier. The setting up of administrative units is aimed at grievance redressal with district and sub-district governance coming closer to the people in proposed areas.

Now that the Congress high command has stepped in, this is believed to have addressed the state party's concerns "of a holistic and equitable approach" to setting up the new administrative units, as a Congress minister put it without agreeing to be named.

Sources said Farooq Abdullah, who played a crucial role in bridging the gap between the Congress and the NC with his proximity to 10 Janpath, spoke to Omar Abdullah late on Tuesday evening informing him that the crisis had been resolved and that he must come to New Delhi on Wednesday.

Omar Abdullah had walked out of the cabinet sub-committee meeting on January 24 after its Congress members told him the report on their recommendations was still not ready.

The cabinet meeting was re-scheduled for February 1 without conducting any other business as Omar Abdullah said he would go ahead with the creation of new administrative units across the state at "any cost".

The chief minister also said the next meeting of the cabinet would conduct no other business except discussing the cabinet sub-committee's report, for which Omar Abdullah had reluctantly given a week's time to be submitted.

Even though the crisis seems to have been averted, the larger issue of whether or not the two should announce a pre-poll alliance for the Lok Sabha and state assembly elections still hangs fire.

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