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‘Minor’ issue costs Azad his govt, Cong its future

The Amarnath land transfer order and the agitations for and against it as “unnecessary” — cost the Congress its coalition government, report A Joshi and A Naqshbandi.
Hindustan Times | By Arun Joshi and Aurangzeb Naqshbandi, Jammu/new Delhi
UPDATED ON JUL 08, 2008 02:16 AM IST

At the end of the day, the Amarnath land transfer order — dubbed by the Jammu and Kashmir government led by Ghulam Nabi Azad as a “minor issue” and the agitations for and against it as “unnecessary” — cost the Congress its coalition government.

The government fell on an emotive issue that divided regions and religions in the state, keeping one part or the other on the boil for more than a fortnight. Azad is now being seen as a man who has caused irreparable damage to his party and himself.

The chief minister, who promised and worked for a new era of development, trying to shift the focus of politics in the state, stood alone in the political theatre on Monday, when he could not take face a trust vote, having failed to muster the required numbers.

Jammu is seething with anger at the Congress, and Kashmir is once again under the sway of separatists. That this is the legacy he would leave behind is something Azad would not have imagined in his worst nightmare.

The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) refused to rejoin or extend outside support to the Congress-led coalition to ensure the “credit for bringing the government down on an emotional issue” would mitigate, in some measure, the people’s anger against it in the coming assembly elections.

The ire of people in the Valley over the Amarnath land transfer order was earlier directed more at the PDP than the Congress. While the PDP’s Muzaffar Hussain Baig, then law minister, had cleared the transfer proposal, his party colleague Qazi Mohammad Afzal had tabled the memorandum in the cabinet as forest minister.

“We could not have taken such a huge risk (of supporting the Congress government) with barely a few months left for the assembly polls,” PDP sources told Hindustan Times.

PDP patron Mutfi Mohammad Sayeed, undergoing treatment in the US, refused to pay heed even to PM Manmohan Singh’s request to support Azad in the confidence motion in the assembly in the “larger interest” of both parties. Sayeed told Singh it was “too late in the day” and that “going with the Congress at this juncture would affect” the PDP’s prospects in the coming elections.

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