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Long and difficult road ahead for Mufti

The mood in the People's Democratic Party (PDP) is clearly upbeat with Mufti Mohammad Sayeed being named J&K's next Chief Minister, but others are sceptical about the survival of his government. "It is the vindication of the people's trust in Mufti Sahib's leadership and it gives us a better chance to fulfil the promises made to the people," says Tariq Hamid Karra.

india Updated: Jan 08, 2003 22:07 IST

The mood in the People's Democratic Party (PDP) is clearly upbeat with Mufti Mohammad Sayeed being named Jammu and Kashmir's next Chief Minister, but others are sceptical about the survival of his government.

"It is the vindication of the people's trust in Mufti Sahib's leadership and it gives us a better chance to fulfil the promises made to the people. Right now everybody is happy," PDP general secretary Tariq Hamid Karra told IANS.

The Congress party Saturday conceded the chief minister's post to Sayeed, ending political uncertainty that had gripped the strategic border state over the past fortnight as the two parties wrangled over heading a coalition government.

"(Congress president) Sonia Gandhi has taken the right decision in the larger interests of the country," Karra said.

Omar Abdullah, the president of the National Conference who was projected as that party's chief ministerial candidate during the September-October assembly elections, reacted differently.

"Now Sayeed has to disband the special operations groups (SOG) of the state police. He has to scrap the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) and release prisoners. (Congress state president) Ghulam Nabi Azad has to give jobs to everybody," he said cynically, referring to promises made by Sayeed and Azad during their election campaigns.

In its campaign, the PDP had said it would work to repeal repressive laws like POTA and to disband the SOG, a counter-insurgency force accused of serious human rights violations.

"If this government lasts even the first three years of its term, I will felicitate Sayeed and his friends," Abdullah said.

He noted that the "doom of the Congress-PDP alliance was written in their promises".

But Sayeed's family is thrilled at the prospect of "Papa becoming chief minister of the state".

"Political power is not new to him. Remember, he was the country's home minister, but heading the state at such a crucial junction of its history is a great opportunity for my father to serve its people," said Rubaiya Sayeed, the PDP chief's younger daughter who was abducted by Kashmiri militants in 1989.

She was freed after the central government, in which her father was the home minister, released seven top terrorists.

The kidnapping had created major differences between then chief minister Farooq Abdullah and Sayeed over their release.

While some separatist leaders thought it was premature to comment, others dismissed the possibility of any good coming out of the Congress-PDP alliance.

Shabir Shah, chief of Democratic Freedom Party (DFP) said: "Decisions about Kashmir have always been taken in Delhi. You see, this time too the decision to install Sayeed as Kashmir's chief minister was made in Delhi.

"PDP vice president Mehbooba Mufti had promised the blood of the innocents would be avenged. They made electoral commitments on talks (with Pakistan), disbanding the SOG, scrapping POTA and ending corruption. We will have to wait and watch if they do this."

Hardline separatist leader Abbas Ansari, a member of the executive council of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference, said a crackdown on separatist leaders had begun soon after Sayeed was named chief minister-designate.

He claimed police arrived at his Srinagar residence at 5 am Sunday and told him that he had been put under house arrest. He said other Hurriyat leaders too had been taken into custody.

"Mufti's coming to power is already showing its results," Ansari said.

Sayeed's emergence as the next chief minister was greeted with banner headlines in local newspapers.

"Mufti Mohammad Sayeed muqadar ka sikander, Ghulam Nabi Azad ka doosra number" (Sayeed is the master of his destiny, Azad comes in second) said a headline in the Urdu daily Srinagar Times, referring to Azad's dropping out of the race for the chief minister's post.

"Believe it or not, Mufti is the chief minister," said the English daily Kashmir Images.

The common Kashmiri, however, believes that Sayeed would have to deliver on poll promises or lose his standing.

"If he doesn't live up to the promises his party made, he would go the National Conference way and perhaps worse than that," said Javaid Hussain, 49, a resident of Amira Kadal in Srinagar.

"I hope Sayeed and the PDP address themselves more seriously to governance and redress public grievances. Ganderbal will always remind them that disaster awaits those who neglect the masses," said Abdul Majid Sheikh, a resident of Ganderbal, a National Conference bastion where Omar Abdullah was defeated by the PDP's Qazi Mohammad Afzal.

Despite his vast political experience of more than three decades, Sayeed is in for the toughest challenge of his life once he assumes the reins of power in Kashmir.

He has the experience and the expertise of a shrewd politician who stood his ground despite the challenge from the National Conference in the 1970s and 1980s.

Sayeed, it would appear, is padded up for the most crucial innings of his political career.

Discontent in Congress

A day after the High Command named Sayeed to head the Cong-PDP coalition government, there were murmurs of discontent among newly-elected Congress members over conceding the chief ministership to PDP, reports PTI.

Some of the MLAs met here informally and are planning to meet again on Sunday to convey their unhappiness to the High Command, one of the MLAs said on condition of anonymity.

The MLAs are reported to be sore that the chief ministership has not come to the party which should have staked the claim for state Cong chief Ghulam Nabi Azad, the MLA said.

They are said to be getting support from some independent MLAs and are also likely to get the support of National Conference.

First Published: Oct 27, 2002 21:42 IST