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Last Updated: May 20, 2007 - 10:48:48 AM
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Marriage of inconvenience for Kashmir's ruling coalition
May 15, 2007 - 9:55:08 AM
With Hakim Yasin joining the anti-PDP bandwagon here, the marriage of convenience between the Congress and the PDP is fast changing into one of inconvenience, putting the political acumen of the chief minister to extreme test.

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[RxPG] Srinagar, May 15 - The constituents of Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad's coalition government in Jammu and Kashmir are fast drifting apart even before they face assembly elections next year.

The Congress has long been at loggerheads with its ruling partner People's Democratic Party -, but now the People's Democratic Forum - too has joined the bandwagon of critics.

Addressing a public meeting here Monday, Hakim Yasin, the state transport minister and chairman of PDF, called Mufti Muhammad Sayeed's PDP 'anti-people'.

Yasin also said the PDP was frightened by the increasing popularity of the PDF.

'The people in Kashmir have not forgotten the massacres carried out by Jagmohan who was sent here as the governor when Mufti was the union home minister,' Hakim told a party rally here.

The PDF, which was formed by 12 independent members of the 87-member state assembly after the 2002 assembly elections, is an important constituent of the ruling alliance in Kashmir.

The other constituents of the coalition are the Congress, with 22 MLAs, PDP with 16 MLAs, Panthers Party with four MLAs and the Communist Party of India-Marxist with two MLAs.

Efforts to keep the flock together are proving tough, especially over PDP's demand for demilitarisation in the state.

The estrangement between the Congress and the PDP had peaked after the latter's ministers refused to attend three cabinet meetings in a row over the issue of demilitarisation and the withdrawal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act.

The face-off between the Congress and the PDP was finally resolved after the Prime Minister's Office in New Delhi announced a committee to go into the issue of demilitarisation and submit recommendations to the government.

Despite the crisis blowing over temporarily, relations between the Congress and the PDP could not be worse.

Consider the statements of Abdul Gani Vakil, senior vice president of the state Congress, who has these days become the most vocal critic of Sayeed and his daughter Mehbooba Mufti, who is the PDP president.

During a television discussion here Sunday attended by PDP leader Nizam-ud-Din Bhat, National Conference leader Ali Muhammad Sagar and the separatist leader Muhammad Nayeem Khan, Vakil challenged the PDP to resign from the coalition if it really wanted demilitarisation in the state and was not using the demand as a populist slogan alone.

In a lighter vein, Sagar told Vakil during the television discussion, 'You might do whatever possible to challenge their guts, but they - will not leave the government.'

Mangat Ram Sharma, a senior Congress leader and cabinet minister, is known to spare no effort in criticising the PDP.

On the other hand, during an all-party meeting here last week, the PDP strongly opposed Sharma's case for granting state subject rights to refugees who had come to Kashmir from the Pakistan-administered side in 1947, 1965 and 1971.

'It is a no love lost situation. I seriously believe the next elections for the state assembly are going to be fought with the Congress and the PDP bitterly opposing each other,' said a senior leader of the National Conference here.

With Hakim Yasin joining the anti-PDP bandwagon here, the marriage of convenience between the Congress and the PDP is fast changing into one of inconvenience, putting the political acumen of the chief minister to extreme test.

'He is now riding a horse cart pulled by four horses, with each one pulling in the opposite direction. Azad must be highly pained to keep the cart on course,' said the editor of a prominent daily newspaper here.

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