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PDP withdraws support from J&K government

By Mukhtar Ahmad in Srinagar
Last updated on: June 28, 2008 23:02 IST
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The People's Democratic Party has withdrawn its support from the Jammu and Kashmir government. All ministers from the party submitted their resignations to Governor N N Vohra on Saturday evening, party president Mehbooba Mufti told mediapersons.

"A meeting of our senior ministers and legislators was held today, where it was decided that the PDP could not continue in the government in the prevailing circumstances. All our ministers have tendered their resignations to the chief minister and a letter of withdrawal of support to the coalition government has been sent to the state governor," said Mehbooba Mufti.

"We had given a deadline to the chief minister to rescind the controversial land allotment order to the Sri Amarnath Shrine Board. From his attitude, it appears that the Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad was in no mood to address the aspiration of the people in this regard," Mehbooba said.

The decision to withdraw the support was taken at a meeting of the PDP executive committee, held under the chairmanship of Mufti.

The withdrawal of support comes in the wake of widespread and massive demonstrations and protests across Kashmir, during the last six days, against the forest land allotment to the SASB. The PDP decided to withdraw support two days before the deadline it had set for the state government -- June 30.

The PDP has 18 Members of Legislative Assembly in the 87-member state assembly while the Congress has 21 members. The coalition has the support of eight independent MLAs and two Communist Party of India - Marxist legislators.

Governor N N Vohra can either impose governor's rule in the state or ask the chief minister to run a caretaker government till the state elections in October.

Political observers say that the PDP's decision to pull out from the coalition is an "attempt by the party to cash in on the sentiment of cancellation of land allotment to the SASB, which continues to rock the valley, and to reap a rich political harvest ahead of the polls in October."

However, it needs to be seen how successful the party would be in its objective as the opposition National Conference has blamed it for the land allotment, saying both the state forest minister and the law minister, who piloted the proposal for cabinet approval, belonged to the PDP.

Soon after the PDP pulled out of the Congress-led coalition in the state, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh held discussions with Home Minister Shivraj Patil, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Defence Minister A K Antony about the prevailing situation.

Patil is understood to have briefed the Prime Minister on the situation arising out of continued protests. accompanied by sporadic violence in the state. against the transfer of 39.88 hectares of forest land to the Amarnath board.

Chavan also briefed party president Sonia Gandhi on the political situation in the state. The party leadership was waiting to see what Governor N N Vohra would do before deciding on the next course of action.

The Congress and the PDP formed the present government in November 2002. For the first three years, the coalition was led by the PDP with Mufti Mohammad Sayeed as the chief minister. However, the coalition has been dogged by internal conflicts and controversies since November 2005, after Ghulam Nabi Azad became the chief minister.

Also Read: Srinagar erupts in violence

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Mukhtar Ahmad in Srinagar