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Saxena role under spotlight

Srinagar, Oct. 18: Girish Chandra Saxenaís decision to impose Governorís rule in Jammu and Kashmir has raised eyebrows, more so because he had already given all parties time till Monday to stake claim.

The Assembly is now in suspended animation till a government is formed.

The Congress and the CPM questioned the Governorís motives, hinting at the Centreís connivance with the National Conference. State Congress chief and chief ministerial aspirant Ghulam Nabi Azad said the Governorís role was positive earlier, but yesterday he seemed to be working under pressure from either the Centre or the state government. Azad left for Delhi this morning to hold talks with Sonia Gandhi and other Congress leaders.

Farooq Abdullah had given notice of his intention not to continue as chief minister to the Governor before his 11.30 am news conference on Friday. He drove straight from Raj Bhavan to tell the media that he did not wish to continue beyond midnight, when the term of the current legislature expired.

The Governor had ample time to act. Soon after hearing of the former chief ministerís decision, CPM leader Yousuf Tarigami had called Raj Bhavan and requested Saxena to ensure that parties got at least two to three hours before Governorís rule was clamped on Kashmir.

Tarigami urged the Governorís secretariat to make sure that the letter requesting Abdullah to stay on as caretaker should reach him soon. This was to ensure that he cannot cite the excuse that the letter had not reached him in time.

The National Conference claims the message from Raj Bhavan came at 5.30 pm and by 7.45 pm, Abdullah had sent back his regret note to the Governor. Latest by 8 pm, Saxena knew he had a constitutional crisis on his hands. Tarigami called Raj Bhavan at 7.15 pm and was told that no word had come from Abdullah.

Azad tried to contact the Governor several times between 8 pm and 8.30 pm but could not reach Saxena. He finally managed to get in touch between 9 pm and 9.15 pm. The Congress was informed that Governorís rule was in the offing, but could be revoked whenever any party was able to form a stable government.

Saxena had time from about 8 pm or, at the most, 8.30 pm to give various parties a chance at government formation. According to constitutional experts, he could have invited either the National Conference, as the single largest party, or the Congress, as head of the single largest group.

Instead, Saxena quickly imposed Governorís rule. Although he has promised to revoke it, it makes all parties slightly complacent as there is no time limit now for ministry formation.

Governorís rule, according to the Jammu and Kashmir Constitution, can be imposed without going to Parliament for six months. Beyond this, the proclamation has to be ratified by Parliament.

People in Srinagar see the Governor as partisan, saying the move helps Abdullah and adds to the confusion of Independent legislators, many of whom are not sure which party to back. The Panthersí Party chief today met Abdullah and was closeted with him for an hour. Six National Conference rebel candidates, who have been talking to the Congress, are also keeping their lines open with Abdullah.

In a press statement today, the National Conference defended Abdullahís action and said it was done ďin the interests of constitutional proprietyĒ.

The party also says it is open to talks with all legislators.

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