The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Mufti bent on crown but ready for Cong terms

New Delhi, Oct. 21: Manmohan Singh told Sonia Gandhi tonight that Mufti Mohammad Sayeed was more than keen to lead a coalition government in Jammu and Kashmir but is willing to accept all conditions set by the Congress.

Sonia, who will be in Uttar Pradesh tomorrow, convened a meeting of senior leaders in the evening to discuss Kashmir amid the state party unit’s insistence to wean away some “like-minded” MLAs from Sayeed’s People’s Democratic Party (PDP) or the Abdullahs’ National Conference.

Sources said Sonia continued to have reservations about such a course, pointing out that she would not like to be seen promoting the “aya ram gaya ram culture” in a sensitive border state.

Ghulam Nabi Azad, Jammu and Kashmir Congress president and the party’s choice for chief minister, is, however, confident that a government would be in place in a “few days”.

Sources close to Azad maintained that “everything was in place” and they were waiting for a “green signal” from the AICC chief.

The state leaders are hopeful that with the passage of time, Sonia will relent and let them form a government. “Now it is just a matter of time before we form a government,” a source close to Azad said.

The option of the Congress staking claim to form a minority government is still around, though not many are confident about its feasibility.

First, it remains to be seen if Governor G.C. Saxena will give his nod to such a proposal. Governors now insist on satisfying themselves about letters of support from all political groups and formations before extending an invitation.

Second, the Governor might first call Farooq Abdullah as the National Conference is the single largest party. In that case, the Congress will have to wait till he declines the offer and make sure that its flock stays intact.

Congress sources said Manmohan Singh, who returned from Srinagar this evening after two rounds of meetings with Mufti, explained in detail how the PDP leader kept insisting on the need for a chief minister from the Valley.

Mufti also referred to his proximity to Indira and Rajiv Gandhi. Congress leaders said the key problem was oneupmanship between Azad and Mufti, which dates back to decades.

“It was because of Azad’s interference in day-to-day functioning in the state Congress unit that Mufti left the Congress,” a veteran recalled.

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