Cong. sending Manmohan for talks with Mufti
19 October 2002
NEW DELHI: In an attempt to break the deadlock over government formation in Jammu and Kashmir, the Congress today decided to send its senior leader, Manmohan Singh, to Srinagar tomorrow to talk to the People''s Democratic Party president, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed. Billed as part of the ongoing effort to ''consolidate and unite'' all the MLAs who fought the elections on an anti-National Conference plank, the decision to send Dr. Singh was taken at a meeting of senior leaders at 10, Janpath, shortly after the president of the People''s Democratic Forum and CPI (M) leader, Mohammad Yusuf Tarigami, met the Congress president, Sonia Gandhi, in the afternoon. Mr. Tarigami is said to have impressed upon the Congress the urgency to end the uncertainty at the earliest as the ''credibility of the entire electoral process was getting lost.'' He also suggested that the Congress take a fresh initiative to win over Mr. Sayeed to provide the people of the State with a viable alternative to the National Conference. Besides trying to build bridges with Mr. Sayeed, Dr. Singh will also talk to all other political parties and independents. The Jammu and Kashmir Congress president, Ghulam Nabi Azad, is also scheduled to go to Srinagar tomorrow. Giving details of the efforts being made by the party to form a government in the State at the earliest, the AICC general secretary, Ambica Soni, refused to comment on whether the Congress had an open mind on the issue of Chief Ministership. ''There are certain situations we have to deal with, and certain ground realities that cannot be ignored.'' Asked to elaborate on the ''ground realities,'' Ms. Soni said: ''We are the second-largest party and enjoy the support of the maximum number of MLAs, and the independent MLAs have expressed support for a Congress-led government.'' As for the Jammu and Kashmir Panthers Party president, Bhim Singh''s plans to lead a government, she said: ''He has given a letter extending support to a Congress-led government to the Governor and to us. He has said that should the Congress find itself unable to form a government, then he would like to make an attempt.'' Though officially the Congress maintained that it had an open mind on all the contentious issues, party sources said that there was no question of yielding on the issue of Chief Ministership, particularly after electing Mr. Azad the leader of the Congress Legislature Party. With an eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation, the question is who will blink first.