Cong may go for Govt formation without PDP
22 October 2002
The Daily Excelsior
New Delhi: Amidst indication that Congress will stake claim to form a Government in Jammu and Kashmir bypassing PDP, the party tonight took a decision which it kept under wraps to be announced by its president Sonia Gandhi. Capping nearly two weeks of battle of attrition with PDP, top Congress leaders met here for over two and a half hours after which senior leader Manmohan Singh made a cryptic announcement to the media that a decision has been taken which will be announced by Gandhi ''shortly.'' However, he parried all questions on what the decision was and when it would be announced. Indications that the 20- member Congress might stake claim to power without PDP came earlier in the day when state CLP leader Ghulam Nabi Azad said how long could the party go on with talks with the regional party and a time has come it has to decide whether to bid goodbye. In the 87-member House PDP has 16, NC 28 and independents and others number 23. According to the sources, during the meeting, it was strongly projected that in the recent Assembly polls in Jammu and Kashmir, Congress emerged as the most strong party with mass base from all the three regions of the State. Substantiating their claim, the sources said that it was recalled during the meeting, that in 1983 Assembly polls, Congress had got just two seats from the Valley despite the fact that even then Prime Ministers Mrs Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi had joined the electioneering. Similarly, in 1996 Assembly polls, Congress could get just one seat of Pattan. But this time in the given situation, Congress had considerably performed well by getting five seats for the first time and lost nine seats by 40 to 450 votes. Similarly, in Jammu region, Congress had created a dent in other-wise staunch BJP vote bank by getting overall 15 seats from the region. The Congress had almost wiped off BJP in Jammu region, despite the fact that in the Parliamentary elections, its two MPs— Prof Chaman Lal Gupta and Late Vaid Vishnu Dutt were leading in 31 Assembly segments. On the contrary, the sources said that it was discussed that how could PDP claim to be meeting the regional aspirations of the people when this Party was confined only to the Valley and that too, it had got just 16 seats in 46 Assembly segments from Kashmir region, where National Conference got 18, Congress five, CPI-M two, Awami League one and rest by independents. The sources said that it was discussed during the meeting that Congress infact represented the people in all the three regions and with its secular credentials, the people had reposed faith in it: firstly, because it had performed excellently in the Valley for the first time and secondly, it had defeated RSS backed Jammu State Morcha and eliminated BJP in Jammu region. It was further discussed during the meeting that PDP should have not brought into the issue of regionalism in the selection of the Chief Ministerial candidate, since such feelings were never in the interests of the unity and integrity of the State. CWC sources said after the meeting, presided over by Gandhi, that the party president was conscious of the fact that people of Jammu and Kashmir wanted an elected Government in office and would not like the Governor’s rule for long. Azad said Congress’claim to Chief Ministership was ''just'' and PDP had even rejected the proposal for rotation of Chief Ministership. Emerging from the meeting of senior party leaders chaired by Gandhi to discuss the continuing stalemate with PDP in Government formation, Manmohan Singh said ''a decision has been taken. It will be announced by the party president''. Asked when the decision would be made public, he said ''it is left to her''. Querried if Congress would stake claim to form a Government in the state, Singh said all these matters have been left to Gandhi and she would be announcing her decision ''shortly.'' Asked whether Mr Azad will go to Srinagar tomorrow to stake claim for a Government formation, he parried the question, saying ''I donot keep travel programmes of senior leaders.'' Asked about the possibility of Congress-PDP alliance, Singh said ''we are still hopeful.'' He said all issues relating to Government-formation were discussed threadbare.