CENTRE SOUNDS CONGRESS ON HOUSE SILENCE 

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By FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
  • Published 3.07.00
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New Delhi, July 3 :     The Centre has been sending feelers to the Congress not to rake up the Kashmir autonomy issue in Parliament as it could have global ramifications. The Congress, which has not been having cordial relations with the government, has also received signals that the Prime Minister is willing to consult Opposition parties outside the House on the issue. As the Congress is divided over bailing out the Centre on Kashmir, party chief Sonia Gandhi will soon convene a meeting of the Congress Working Committee, possibly on Saturday. So far, the party has taken a very rigid stand that it will never accept the resolution passed by the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly. Senior leaders Pranab Mukherjee, Manmohan Singh, Ambika Soni, Ahmad Patel and Ghulam Nabi Azad are cut up with the way the Vajpayee government has handled the issue. They feel Kashmir is closely linked to political developments in Tamil Nadu, where the ruling coalition's partners, MDMK and PMK, have been making pro-Eelam noises. The Congress has also taken exception to home minister L.K. Advani's attending the Erode conference, at which MDMK workers flaunted pictures of Prabhakaran, LTTE leader named by the CBI in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination. While the Congress is in favour of strengthening the "legitimate demands" of states, it wants to draw a "Lakshman rekha" so that the Centre remains strong in the federal structure. Mukherjee, Manmohan, Azad and Patel feel the government has made a faux pas in opening the Pandora's box on Kashmir. "It is not the question of the Congress' apprehensions, it is a question of practicability. How can a state say that it wants go back by 50 years?" Mukherjee asked. Referring to the 1975 accord between Indira Gandhi and then Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Sheikh Abdullah, Mukherjee said: "All this should be taken into account. Simply saying that we should go back to a particular cut-off date in history is not possible." The leaders said it was ironical that the National Conference, which is demanding autonomy, was part of the NDA government while the BJP was opposing Article 370. "The National Conference and the BJP should have decided the issue behind the scenes before it came to this focus. It was the job of the government to sort out the issue before it came to this level," Mukherjee said. Farooq for debate Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Farooq Abdullah today contended that the autonomy resolution passed by his state Assembly would lead to "a healthy debate on federalism and strengthen the unity of the nation", reports our special correspondent in Bangalore. Speaking to reporters here, Abdullah said people all over India wanted greater autonomy and "I want our resolution to be discussed across the country and a consensus achieved. My ministers will go to other states and discuss the issue with other regional parties. It's high time we started thinking about a truly federal India." He rejected suggestions that the autonomy mantra would lead to Balkanisation of the country. "Have the United States, Canada or Australia vanished from the map because they have given greater autonomy to their regions?" he asked. "On the contrary, they have progressed by leaps and bounds. India must also think on similar lines."