Uncertainty persists over Jammu and Kashmir government formation (Third Lead)

December 29th, 2008 - 8:15 pm ICT by IANS  

Sonia GandhiSrinagar/New Delhi, Dec 29 (IANS) Uncertainty prevailed over the formation of the new government in Jammu and Kashmir Monday, a day after poll results for the new 87-member assembly were declared, with no party getting an absolute majority to rule the state. Till evening, the National Conference, which emerged as the single largest party with 28 seats, continued to woo the Congress that has the key to form an alliance government.

The National Conference announced Omar Abdullah as its chief ministerial candidate.

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has 21 legislators while the Congress has 17 in the newly elected house.

The National Conference and the Congress alliance can cross the halfway mark of 44 to form the government. But the Congress plus PDP makes 38, still six short of the required number.

Keeping its cards close to the chest, the Congress said that all options were open.

“The most important issue is to give a stable government, good governance according to the expectations of the people of Kashmir,” Congress spokesman Manish Tiwari told reporters in New Delhi.

“All options are open. People are at work and consultations are going on.”

Similar comments came from senior Congress leader and former chief minister Ghulam Nabi Azad. “We are discussing the issue. Once the arrangement is clinched, we will announce it,” Azad said in Jammu.

The National Conference in Srinagar said its chief patron Farooq Abdullah would meet Congress president Sonia Gandhi Monday night for the purpose. However, his arrival in the national capital was delayed due to interruption of flights owing to thick fog in New Delhi.

The senior Abdullah said in Srinagar that his party was not averse to have an alliance with the Congress.

The Congress, sources said, was also contemplating on the arrangement of the coalition - whether to support the National Conference from outside or be part of the government.

The former Congress-PDP coalition, which ruled the state from November 2002 to July 2008, fell apart before completing the term after the PDP withdrew support to the Congress.

Mehbooba Mufti, the PDP president, also hinted at reviving its alliance with the Congress in the state. “It is for the Congress to decide (on the alliance). It has to see with which party it could consolidate the gains made in the state over the past five and half years since the 2002 elections,” Mehbooba said.

Farooq Abdullah, after many flip-flops on the decision earlier, endorsed his son Omar as the National Conference’s chief ministerial candidate.

“I had already thought of taking care of the party and playing a role in national politics. There is no confusion about Omar’s choice as the party’s chief ministerial candidate which will soon be endorsed here by the legislature party in its meeting,” Abdullah said.

But Omar, recognising the uncertainty, said: “It is not yet clear who will be the chief minister of the state. It is clear that I will be the party’s chief ministerial candidate.”

“At the moment we are focusing to cement an alliance with the Congress party and Doctor Sahab (Farooq Abdullah) will go to Delhi to meet the Congress high command, if the weather permits,” he told reporters.

Azad welcomed the junior Abdullah as chief ministerial choice of the National Conference.

“We welcome Omar Abdullah as the party’s chief ministerial candidate. I am happy that the controversy between the father and the son over the issue is over.”

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