Today's Paper

Jammu & Kashmir government shaky on eve of vote of confidence

Praveen Swami

NEW DELHI: On the eve of a confidence vote that will decide the fate of the Congress-led coalition government in Jammu and Kashmir, the party’s central leadership has initiated an eleventh-hour dialogue with its estranged ally, the People’s Democratic Party.

New Delhi-based Congress leaders and National Security Adviser M.K. Narayanan have spoken to the former Chief Minister, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, who is in the U.S. for treatment of a cardiac condition, asking that the PDP abstain from voting on Monday.

PDP divided on proposal

No official comment was forthcoming on the dialogue, but party sources said the PDP was divided on the proposal. If the PDP finally decides to vote against the government, Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad will need 44 votes and the casting vote of the Speaker to secure a majority in the 89-member Legislative Assembly, because of Mr. Sayeed’s absence.

As things stand, the 22 Congress MLAs appear to have the support of a bloc of 14 independents and two Communist Party of India (Marxist) legislators.

Chief Minister Azad’s advisers also hope to secure the support of two of the Panthers Party’s four MLAs.

The Congress hopes to rope in a breakaway faction of four PDP dissidents, Ghulam Hassan Khan, Sarfaraz Khan, Qazi Mohammad Afzal and Ghulam Hassan Mir, expelled from the party but arguably continue to be legally bound by its whip.

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