NATIONAL

Ladakh result a contentious issue

Shujaat Bukhari

The seat was won by NC provincial president as an Independent



NC in a damage control mode

UPA may offer Minister of State berth to NC



SRINAGAR: The representation to Jammu and Kashmir in the Union Cabinet may become a contentious issue between the coalition partners in the State — the Congress and the National Conference. The reason: the Ladakh seat was won by the NC’s provincial president, Ghulam Hassan Khan, as an Independent, defeating P. Namgayal of the Congress.

NC president Farooq Abdullah has been a front-runner for the Cabinet berth at the Centre, but sources say the Congress has taken strong exception to the NC’s role in the Ladakh election. A majority of the Congress leaders dealing with Kashmir are averse to accommodating Dr. Abdullah in the Cabinet in this backdrop. This has been, perhaps, conveyed to the NC leadership as well, even as Chief Minister Omar Abdullah said here on Monday that his party extended unconditional support to the United Progressive Alliance and would not bargain for a berth in the Union Council of Ministers.

“Homecoming”

In an interesting development, the newly elected MP from Ladakh, Ghulam Hassan, Khan addressed a press conference here on Monday in the presence of the Abdullahs announcing that he was back in the NC. Dr. Abdullah termed it Mr. Khan’s “homecoming.”

In the evening, however, the NC media cell announced that Mr. Khan had extended support to the NC and the UPA as an Independent. This, the sources said, was done to control the damage caused to relations between the two parties.

Till now it was Pradesh Congress Committee chief Saifuddin Soz who whole-heartedly supported the NC in the elections. Prof. Soz has the credit of giving a foothold to the Congress in the Valley after he became the party’s State chief.

A non-controversial politician, Prof. Soz took along with him all the lobbies in the party. He was inducted into the Union Cabinet as Congress president Sonia Gandhi respects him for his historic decision to vote against the then A.B. Vajpayee government in 1998 despite his party — the NC — pressuring him to vote for the BJP. He was later expelled by the NC.

Prof. Soz is seen as a credible Muslim face in India. He did not contest the Lok Sabha elections but was elected to the Rajya Sabha in March this year.

The sources said there was a likelihood of the UPA offering a Minister of State berth to the NC, for which the MP from South Kashmir, Mehboob Beg, could be considered. In that case, one of the two MPs from the Jammu region could also be picked for the same position to strike a balance between Kashmir and Jammu.

Another probable contender for a Cabinet berth is the former Chief Minister, Ghulam Nabi Azad, who has made a comeback in national politics. But the sources say he is more interested in getting a bigger responsibility in the party set-up than in the government.

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