PDP favours continuing alliance with Congress


Srinagar : Jammu and Kashmir's People's Democratic Party (PDP) says it would like to continue its alliance with the Congress despite differences over crucial issues.

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"We will think about parting ways with the Congress if we feel the government was not taking the aspirations of the people seriously," Deputy Chief Minister and senior PDP leader Muzaffar Hussain Baig told a party convention in Badgam district which ended Thursday.

He said Congress chief Sonia Gandhi wanted the PDP-Congress alliance to jointly fight the assembly elections due next year.

Serious differences have cropped up between the partners over the issue of withdrawal of troops from urban areas of the state.

While Baig said the level of the deployed troops needed to be brought down after security agencies maintained that only 1,500 guerrillas now existed on the ground, the Congress, including union Defence Minister A.K. Antony, have ruled out any immediate reduction.

"The Kashmir issue cannot be resolved through the gun as is proved by the number of graveyards that have come up here during the last 18 years. For resolving this issue we have to win the hearts and minds of the people and these cannot be won with the gun," Baig asserted.

Voicing concern over an overwhelming presence of non-locals in the state bureaucracy, he advised the younger generation to opt for civil services rather than chase professions like medicine and engineering.

Baig also urged the committees set up by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to look into the PDP demand of troop reduction.

"We hope the committees will submit a positive report on troop reduction without wasting any further time."

In another development, PDP president Mehbooba Mufti welcomed the statement by her political rival and regional National Conference president Omar Abdullah supporting the party's demand on troops.

Addressing a separate party convention here today, Mehbooba said, "Paradoxically, Omar Sahib took a pro-troops reduction stand at the same venue in north Kashmir's Handwara town where he had vehemently opposed the PDP demand in November last year."