Chidambaram To Lead All-party Team To J&K16 September 2010
New Delhi: Union home minister P Chidambaram will lead an all-party delegation to Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) next Monday to provide a much-needed healing touch to the Valley’s agitated youth. Sources in the government said the decision was made by UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and prime minister Manmohan Singh after the Congress core committee met in New Delhi on Thursday evening to take stock of the situation in J&K. The committee, which also discussed the composition of the delegation, felt that Chidambaram was best suited to lead it as the home ministry was handling day-to-day Kashmir affairs, though the prime minister was in-charge otherwise. The team is likely to have representatives of 28 national and important political parties. While two principal national parties will send two leaders each, the remaining parties will send a leader each. Parliamentary affairs minister Pawan Kumar Bansal, who will be part of the delegation, is coordinating with all parties. It is, however, not clear who will represent Congress as Chidambaram and Bansal are part of the government. The prospect of general secretary Rahul Gandhi representing the party is being assessed. The delegation will go to J&K with an “open mind” and efforts are being made to ensure all sections, including those behind trouble-making, come forward to interact with it. Contrary to his hard stand on the Maoist front, Chidambaram’s approach towards those demanding a Kashmir package, including dilution of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, has been rather friendly. This should explain his selection to the lead the team. Meanwhile, after Rahul threw his weight behind Omar Abdullah on Thursday morning, saying the chief minister be given more time and support in the circumstances, a change of guard in J&K appears unlikely. Instead, as former chief minister and Omar’s father Farooq Abdullah discussed with Sonia, Manmohan and others during the day, some concrete steps are likely to be taken to assuage the feelings of Kashmiri youth and strengthen Omar’s hands.