The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Good sense has finally prevailed in Jammu and Kashmir. The Peopleís Democratic Party and the Congress have arrived at an understanding over power-sharing and a new government should soon be in place in the state. The president of the PDP, and the former Union home minister, Mr Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, will be chief minister for the first three years. A Congress nominee ó in all probability the state Congress chief, Mr Ghulam Nabi Azad ó will be the chief minister for the next three. The political crisis in Jammu and Kashmir that followed the electoral results had been causing anxiety throughout the country. There was a fear that gains made by the holding of free and fair elections could easily be lost if the stalemate continued much further. It was vital for the Congress and the PDP to rise above their partisan interests and establish a coalition government. There will, therefore, be a widespread sense of relief at the latest turn of events. The real task of addressing the problems of the people of the state must now begin.

It is heartening that the Congress and the PDP have agreed to a common minimum programme, and the new government must demonstrate the ability to translate its commitments into reality. While the PDP and the Congress are the main players in the coalition, they have to carry with them the Pantherís Party and the Democratic Peopleís Front, which consists of two legislators of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and five independent legislators. The Pantherís Party has been known for its maverick views, and had consistently advocated that a political leader from Jammu should become the chief minister. Fortunately, the Pantherís Party leader, Mr Bhim Singh, has been persuaded to accept Mr Sayeed as chief minister, but the new government will be naïve to take this support for granted. The state government must realize that there are clearly three prerequisites for sustaining the support of the people, and in ensuring that good governance is not subverted. The most important necessity is to open up the political and civil space. People in the state, particularly in the valley, must be willing to engage with the democratic process and structures of governance without fearing for their lives. No less important is to begin a dialogue to develop a consensus over the future of the state. This dialogue must be as inclusive as possible and must not exclude even those opposed to the new government. Finally, the state government must develop a working relationship with the Centre. A policy of accommodation rather than confrontation will not only be in the interests of the people of the state, but may also ensure that the coalition completes its full term in office.

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