No Let-up In Cong-PDP Spar

Srinagar, October 22: | Updated: Oct 23 2002, 05:30am hrs
The Congress and the Peoples Democratic Party were locked in a brinksmanship on Tuesday on the issue of chief ministership in Jammu and Kashmir with the national party even raising questions over continuing with the parleys.

With PDP favouring more talks and shortly before the crucial meeting of Congress leaders here to evolve a strategy on government formation, president of the J&K unit of Congress Ghulam Nabi Azad said their claim over chief minitership was reasonable.

We already had a number of meetings. We have to decide whether we would continue to have more such meetings or just say goodbye, Mr Azad said here in the backdrop of fresh pleas by PDP for more negotiations. The PDP also did not want the Congress to close the option of further dialogue.

With no signs of a solution to the prolonged impasse after the house threw up a hung verdict on October 10, Mr Azad said the Congress proposed rotating chief ministership with the PDP. The proposal was rejected by the PDP which wanted the chief ministership for full term.

The PDP showed no signs of relenting on its claim for chief ministership and indicated that it was even prepared to sit in the Opposition.

At the same time with the Congress preparing to take a final position on the deadlock, PDP vice-president Muzaffar Baig counselled the Congress not to close its options for talks. We need them (Congress). They need us, Mr Baig said in Srinagar.

PDP vice-president Mehbooba Sayeed also said her party would continue negotiations till the last moment.

Mr Azad said the Congress claim for chief ministership was reasonable and indicated it might stake the claim for forming government with the support of Independents and minus the PDP. Mr Baig said a Congress government without the presence of PDP or the National Conference would not be stable and will be like the previous minority government of Narasimha Rao.

Earlier in the day, revealing what transpired in the meeting with senior Congress leader Manmohan Singh and others, Ms Sayeed said most of the offers to arrive at an early settlement from the Congress were rejected by her party.

We rejected the offer of rotational chief minister as it does not serve the purpose, she said, adding we also turned down the post of deputy chief minister, home minister and chairman of the coordination committee.

The PDP has been at pains trying to shed the image of a party playing regional card within the state, but had staked claim for the top slot saying if the chief ministerial candidate came from the region other than Kashmir, it would increase the alienation among the people of the Valley. We got the mandate against the ruling NC, and the Congress got it in Jammu against the BJP. We represent the regional aspirations and we have to fulfill them, she said.