National Conference, Congress begin courtship for J&K alliance

National Conference, Congress begin courtship for J&K alliance
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First Published: Mon, Dec 29 2008. 09 50 PM IST
Updated: Mon, Dec 29 2008. 09 50 PM IST
Srinagar / New Delhi: Political parties in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) tried to stitch together a coalition on Monday after elections that were seen as a vote for better governance.
Omar Abdullah, the National Conference (NC) chief, said his party has got “positive signals” from the Congress party on forming a government in J&K, where the assembly election has returned a fractured verdict. The NC emerged as the state’s single largest party after the polls.
“The NC has got very positive signals from the Congress. Otherwise, I would not have come to Delhi,” Abdullah, who flew in to the national capital from Srinagar for a meeting with Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, told reporters at the airport.
Asked who would be the chief minister in such an arrangement, the 38-year-old said he would first hold talks about stitching up an alliance and then discuss the nitty-gritty of the coalition.
“We will talk about formation of a coalition and if we succeed in the talks, then probably within two or three days, the announcement of coalition will be possible,” Abdullah said, adding that he will talk to the Congress leadership on Tuesday.
Abdullah’s party won 28 of the assembly’s 87 seats, the Congress 17, the regional People’s Democratic Party 21, the Bharatiya Janata Party 11 and other parties and Independents won 10 seats.
Despite a boycott call by separatists and Muslim militants, the election had a turnout of at least 60% of Kashmir’s 6.4 million voters.
The NC and the People’s Democratic Party back greater autonomy for the region to help end a two-decade separatist rebellion.
The large voter turnout has encouraged New Delhi, which now hopes to blunt separatist sentiments and bring peace by investing heavily in development projects and job creation.
Separatists saw the high turnout as a desire to choose a good government that can build roads and improve civic amenities and did not believe that undermined the independence movement. “Undoubtedly, people voted, but they voted for water, electricity and employment, not for Indian rule,” senior separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani said. “The freedom struggle will go on until it reaches its logical conclusion.”
Separatists in Kashmir say New Delhi uses elections as an endorsement of its rule over the region. Kashmir came under President’s rule in July after the incumbent Congress-People’s Democratic Party coalition government fell over a land dispute.
The controversy became the trigger for some of Kashmir’s biggest anti-India protests since a revolt against New Delhi’s rule began in 1989, threatening the success of any Indian government-backed vote.
Muslim guerrillas have in the past used violence to scupper polls, but this year the United Jihad Council, a Pakistan-based militant alliance fighting Indian troops in Kashmir, rejected the use of violence to force a boycott.
In the 2002 elections, at least 700, including politicians and political workers, were killed. This year’s vote was peaceful in comparison.
PTIcontributed to this story.
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First Published: Mon, Dec 29 2008. 09 50 PM IST