Last ditch efforts to resolve Kashmir impasse
Saifudin Soz of India's main opposition Congress party made a last ditch effort to end the deadlock between the Congress and the regional Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), both trying to form a coalition government in the state assembly despite haggles over who will take the job of chief minister. The Congress secured 20 seats, while the PDP won 16 seats in the 87-member assembly following a four-phase poll...india Updated: Oct 18, 2002 13:36 IST
Atop politician Tuesday attempted to break the impasse between two parties staking a claim for the leadership in Jammu andKashmir, but chances of a breakthrough looked grim.
Saifudin Soz of India's main opposition Congress party made a last ditch effort to end the deadlock between the Congress and the regional Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), both trying to form a coalition government in the state assembly despite haggles over who will take the job of chief minister.
The Congress secured 20 seats, while the PDP won 16 seats in the 87-member assembly following a four-phase election that swept the long-ruling National Conference (NC) from power, according to results announced Thursday.
Despite efforts by Soz, a former NC leader who recently joined Congress, analysts said it seemed less likely a coalition could be formed and perhaps the NC, which gained 28 seats and remains the single largest party, could try to form a government instead.
According to the Constitution, the new government must be in place by October 17.
The Congress leader in Jammuand Kashmir, Ghulam Nabi Azad, and his PDP counterpart, Mufti Mohammed Sayeed, both want the top job.
Congress national leader Sonia Gandhi failed to negotiate a solution after holding talks with both men in New Delhi on Sunday.
Gandhi handed the dispute back to the newly-elected Congress legislators in Kashmir, who at a meeting Monday voted Azad as their caucus leader in the assembly, signalling he remained the party's chief ministerial candidate.
Azad is from the Hindu-dominated Jammu region, which has been less affected by a 13-year-old Muslim insurgency in the statethat has killed some 37,000 people.
But Sayeed remains adamant the chief minister should be from the Muslim-dominated Kashmir valley, his home region.
"Even as the negotiations have reached a dead end between Congress and the PDP, Soz is trying hard to negotiate a deal," a Congress leader told AFP, adding the party had support of more than 16 independent members of the assembly.
"Soz is trying to promote an understanding between the two parties in view of a clear mandate from the people for them to form the government," he said on condition of anonymity.
The leader said Soz firmly felt the coalition should be led by the Congress, given its numerical strength.
Soz met Monday with senior PDP leader Ghulam Hassan Mir, and is in touch with other leaders including Sayeed.
With the Congress and PDP still unable to form a coalition days after the results were announced, NC leaders said they would seek to "provide an alternate arrangement" by forming a government with independent members.
Originally, the NC said it would sit in the opposition after its defeat.
"We have left the field open for the PDP and Congress," senior NC leader Ali Mohammed Sagar told a TV news channel. "But if the two parties fail to reach a consensus then other options are open."
An independent member of the assembly joined the NC Monday, while outgoing Kashmir chief minister and former NC president, Farooq Abdullah, overnight appealed to NC rebels to rejoin the party to strengthen it.
NC spokesman Ghulam Mohiudin Shah has said the state governor should abide by the Constitution and invite the NC as the single largest party to form the government.
First Published: Oct 15, 2002 21:15 IST