The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Party celebrates people’s ‘victory’

Srinagar, Oct. 26: After a fortnight of political uncertainty, Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s announcement that Mufti Mohammad Sayeed would be the chief minister of the Congress-People’s Democratic Party coalition government set off a wave of unbridled joy among his party workers.

Ecstatic workers trooped to Mufti’s residence at Nowgam here and hugged and congratulated their party leaders as the news reached the Valley.

Leading the celebrations was a jubilant Tariq Hamid Qarra, the PDP general secretary. “This is a big victory for the people,” he shouted above the babble.

“We will honour the verdict of the people, try to mitigate their hardships and we will try to fulfil our agenda,” added Qarra, in between receiving numerous calls from partymen and journalists.

As the joy sunk in, there was talk of the need to meet people’s expectations. “I hope they fulfil the promises they made in their party manifesto,” said Mohammad Akbar, a PDP supporter.

The state Congress was stoic in its reaction. “No doubt we wanted a Congress chief minister. But we, too, had left the decision to the high command. We will work jointly with the PDP and try to restore peace in the state,” said state Congress general secretary Taj Mohi-ud-Din.

Insiders, however, said there was resentment among party leaders and newly-elected Congress MLAs, who were pressing the leadership for the first chief minister from Jammu to head the government.

But senior Congress leader Tariq Mohi-ud-Din denied there was bad blood in the party over the choice of Mufti. “It is a good step. We can jointly address the issues facing the people. We have to work together for restoration of peace and try to address the problem of growing unemployment in the state.”

Saffron sting

The RSS charged the Congress with “cheating” the people of Jammu by agreeing to Mufti’s candidature as the chief minister, even as the BJP said the new government should commit itself to fighting terrorism and upholding national interests, reports PTI.

“The Congress has cheated and let down the people of Jammu. It is the people of Jammu who defeated the National Conference, which bagged maximum seats from the Valley,” RSS spokesman Ram Madhav said.

Charging the Congress with going back on its poll promises that Jammu would get the chief ministership, he said: “The decision only vindicates the RSS stand that the people of Jammu and Ladakh are discriminated against and their redemption lies in separation from the Valley.”

He said the RSS-backed Jammu State Morcha would continue with its demand for separate statehood to Jammu both within and outside the Assembly.

BJP spokesman Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said the choice for the top post was an “internal” matter of the Congress and the PDP, but it favoured a stable government in the state committed to fighting cross-border terrorism and upholding national interests.

“The new government should pay special attention to Jammu and Ladakh,” he said.

Asked about the PDP’s demand for “unconditional talks with militants”, he said, “any talks should be within the framework of the Indian Constitution”.

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