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J&K ruling coalition to continue

Sandeep Dikshit

Irritants to be sorted out

NEW DELHI: A high-level meeting of the Congress late on Saturday resolved to continue with its alliance with the People's Democratic Party (PDP) in Jammu and Kashmir and sort out irritants in their relationship.

Sonia attends

The meeting attended by Congress president Sonia Gandhi, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, reviewed the political situation in the State, especially the tensions between the two coalition partners.

It felt the alliance "must be made to work,'' said the participants. External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee joined them later.

The tensions, the meeting noted, manifested in the PDP's demand for withdrawal of the Army in the State and aggravated by Mr. Azad's "needless'' counsel to those making this demand to first forego security given to them.

Basic points

According to the participants, two basic points were made.

One, that the ruling coalition was the best political option for the State but the desire for continuing the alliance should not be viewed as weakness.

The second was that a tie-up with the National Conference would not work. The possibility of a tie-up between these two parties is understood to have fuelled the PDP's suspicions about the survivability of the coalition. Though a section of the State Congress is open to the idea of exploring a tie-up with the National Conference, the meeting took note of the 1987 experience that proved disastrous for the State.

Displeasure signalled

The PDP had made known its displeasure about the intentions of the State Congress by not attending two successive Cabinet meetings.

It had earlier been demanding a special session of the Cabinet to discuss troops reduction and withdrawal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act.

No hiccups: Azad

PTI reports from Jammu:

Mr. Azad said his government was functioning smoothly.

``There are no hiccups and the coalition is running smoothly,'' he told reporters on Sunday.

He parried questions on the meeting in New Delhi.

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