PDP rejects Congress plan of rotating CM
21 October 2002
The Asian Age
New Delhi: Congress president Sonia Gandhi has called a meeting of senior party leaders on Tuesday to discuss whether the party should continue its talks with the PDP on government formation or stake its claim with the support of Independents, other smaller parties and a section of the PDP. Jammu and Kashmir PCC president Ghulam Nabi Azad said on Monday night after a meeting with Mrs Gandhi that the PDP had rejected the Congress’ rotating chief ministership proposal. He said the PDP was still sticking to its demand for the post of chief minister. Mr Azad said that even though the PDP was pressing the demand, Independents and smaller parties want the Congress alone to lead the government. He said the Congress had already offered the post of deputy chief minister to Ms Mehbooba Mufti. The Congress’ strategy seems to be to isolate the PDP further with the support of the Independents and other smaller parties. Dr Manmohan Singh and Mr Azad met Mrs Sonia Gandhi for almost two hours after returning from Srinagar and apprised her of the party’s options. Earlier, in Srinagar, the second round of talks between the Congress and the People’s Democratic Party to resolve the issue of government formation in Jammu and Kashmir ended on Monday with some headway on the common minimum programme. Both sides also put in some fresh suggestions that were discussed by the Congress high command in New Delhi. The meeting between the Congress’ Dr Manmohan Singh and PDP’s Mufti Muhammad Sayeed took place at the latter’s residence on Monday afternoon. Emerging from the talks with Mr Sayeed and other PDP leaders, Dr Singh said both sides have put in some suggestions which he would carry to Congress president Sonia Gandhi. ''We talked on all the issues... government formation, the common minimum programme and other subjects,'' Dr Singh told waiting reporters. ''Sayeed gave some suggestions. We also made some. And now I will be going to New Delhi to apprise the Congress high command about the same.'' Dr Singh was accompanied to the meeting by state Congress chief Ghulam Nabi Azad. Senior PDP leader Muzaffar Hussain Beig told reporters in Srinagar that both the parties have made ''tremendous headway'' on the CMP. There are some differences between the two over the CMP, though. The PDP wants the Special Operations Group disbanded and anti-terrorism laws revoked. The PDP also wants unconditional talks with separatists and militants, and the release of detainees. The Congress has some reservations as giving in to the PDP’s demands would not be in the party’s interest given the upcoming polls in Gujarat and other states. Mr Beig said Monday’s meeting was a ''sort of get-together'' between the leaders of the two parties. ''It is good to know each other before the coalition is formed,'' he said, adding that Dr Singh and Mr Azad were served a special Kashmiri cuisine. Before going into the second round talks with Mr Sayeed, Dr Singh and Mr Azad met state governor G.C. Saxena. They said the meeting was a ''courtesy call.'' A PDP leader said there had been progress on the CMP but that Dr Manmohan Singh had been told that the PDP would not compromise on the post of chief minister.