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Azad to be elected leader on Sunday

Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI: The Legislature Party of the Congress in Jammu & Kashmir will meet on Sunday in Srinagar to formally elect Union Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad as its leader ahead of his taking charge as Chief Minister on November 2. The election of the CLP leader will take place in the presence of the All-India Congress Committee general secretary in-charge of the State, Ambika Soni, and a senior leader Motilal Vora.

Even as the Congress awaits word from its ally, the People's Democratic Party (PDP) on the composition of the coalition government, the party's central leadership said that it would prefer to continue with an arrangement similar to the one in place since 2002.

"A role reversal would be ideal,'' said a senior leader, asserting that it would only be natural for the Chief Minister to retain the key portfolio of Home.

About speculation that Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed of the PDP would be inducted into the Union Cabinet and that his daughter Mehbooba Mufti would become Deputy Chief Minister, Congress leaders said that "all this is in the realm of conjecture''.

Discussions on government formation with the PDP would take place in Srinagar on Sunday since Mr. Azad and Ms. Soni would be in the State capital that day.

Congress spokesman Abhishek Singhvi described the change of guard as "graceful and participatory.''

As for the time taken in arriving at a decision, he said: "The Congress president opted for a participatory and inclusive approach'' in the spirit of "coalition dharma.''

Senior leaders said on Friday that the Congress decision had not been taken under duress.

A number of party MLAs had earlier reportedly threatened to resign if the Mufti continued as Chief Minister.

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