Upset Mufti says keeping coalition boat afloat difficult

By Murali Krishnan, IANS

New Delhi : Upset over the functioning of the Congress-led coalition government in Jammu and Kashmir, Mufti Mohammed Sayeed, the patron of the ruling partner Peoples’ Democratic Party, says keeping the alliance boat afloat is becoming difficult.

Support TwoCircles

“Coalition dharma has not worked the way we wanted it to,” Mufti told IANS in a telephonic interview from Srinagar.

Regretting the lack of interest of the state government in promoting the peace process, the former chief minister said no dramatic movement had taken place either in confidence building measures between India and Pakistan.

“Unfortunately the peace process (with Pakistan) and talks with separatist leaders (in Kashmir) have not moved… No dramatic development has taken place. There is no consolidation,” said Mufti, who led the coalition government in its first three years before handing over the reins to the Congress in November 2005, as per the arrangement agreed to after the October 2002 elections.

He said the government in its initial phase – when PDP was leading the coalition – led the process with a “solid impact on the ground, not only in Jammu and Kashmir but also on the overall India-Pakistan peace efforts and the Kashmir specific confidence building measures”.

The coalition partners – PDP and Congress – have been at loggerheads since Ghulam Nabi Azad took over from him. The PDP has been insisting on reduction of troops from Kashmir – especially from the orchards – a demand that Congress has rejected.

Mufti regretted that PDP’s demands for troop reduction and revocation of special powers to security forces were not taken seriously by the Congress-led central government.

The coalition crisis worsened in March, when mounting differences over these demands threatened the very survival of the government. Mufti parked himself in New Delhi for four days before Prime Minister Manmohan Singh constituted a committee to look into the troop reduction possibility.

Making it clear that the government of India must take a decision on the recommendations of the committees, Mufti expressed anguish over New Delhi’s lukewarm response to his party’s proposals.

“This time I won’t visit Delhi to remind the prime minister of the matter that has assumed urgency,” he said.

“We supported Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in functioning of the mechanism for the purpose (of troop reduction). Ironically, there has been no movement forward on the issue,” he lamented.

However, he avoided a direct answer when asked if the PDP will pull out from the coalition. “Matters are deteriorating,” fumed Mufti but added: “We are trying to sort it out.” He hoped the government would understand its role in pushing forward the process to rebuild the people’s confidence.

Commenting on the recent controversial dismissal of a cabinet minister, Qazi Mohammed Afzal, a senior PDP leader, Mufti said, “Qazi’s dismissal is an issue but not the issue”.

“I hope things will be set straight but I am struggling to keep the coalition boat floating.”

A party meeting in Srinagar Wednesday said the Azad-led government had dithered on the political and economic agenda of the coalition resulting in an adverse impact on the ground.