Chidambaram may lead all-party team to Kashmir


New Delhi: Home Minister P. Chidambaram is likely to lead the all-party delegation that will visit Jammu and Kashmir Monday-Tuesday in a bid to defuse tensions in the state, official sources said Friday.

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Earlier, the Congress party and the government were considering Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee as the delegation leader but changed their mind later, an office bearer of the All India Congress Committee told IANS.

Party leaders from Jammu and Kashmir had urged Congress president Sonia Gandhi to join the team. The Congress leadership decided against that proposal, party sources said.

The delegation will visit the violence-hit Kashmir region Monday and the Jammu region Tuesday, as per the schedule being prepared by the home ministry, a senior official told IANS. The idea is to get a first hand impression of the situation on the ground before taking steps to defuse the volatile situation.

Gandhi chaired a meeting of the Congress core committee on Kashmir Friday morning and reviewed the Kashmir situation. The meeting also finalised the party’s approach to the all-party team’s visit. Mukherjee, Chidambaram and Defence Minister A.K. Antony were present at the meet.

Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office Prithviraj Chavan, who is also the Congress general secretary in-charge of the state and Saifuddin Soz, president of Kashmir’s Congress unit, also attended the meeting.

Meanwhile, the Bharatiya Janata Party will be represented by its general secretary, Arun Jaitley. Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh Yadav and DMK leader T.R. Baalu will also be part of the delegation.

The parliamentary affairs ministry will also be asking all political parties and groups represented in parliament to propose one member each for the all-party delegation, an official said.

The visit is being facilitated by the home ministry and the Jammu and Kashmir government.

The decision to send the delegation to Jammu and Kashmir was taken at an all-party meeting here Wednesday. Leaders of 39 political parties and groups attended the meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

The Kashmir Valley has been rocked by a cycle of violence, with retaliatory firing by the security forces on stone-pelting mobs resulting in the death of 93 civilians, mosty teenagers and youth, since June 11.