Friday, Dec 02, 2022

The Larger National Interest

The Larger National Interest

If the bon-homie and spirit of accommodation displayed by the various constituents of the proposed coalition while releasing their CMP continues, the people of the troubled state may actually have some respite in store.

The cynics may call it the contested minimum programme, but a 30-point common minimum programme (CMP) was finally agreed upon and released in the presence of the leaders of the Congress, the PDP, the Democratic People's Forum and the Panthers Party, who have come together to provide a "viable alternative to several years of misrule by the National Conference"

Making the document public at a press conference, Congress leader Manmohan Singh said, "We have expressed our intention to work together to form a new government under the leadership of (PDP President) Mufti Mohammad Sayeed".

It urges the Centre to hold unconditional talks with all segments of public opinion in the State and extends full cooperation to the national effort in fighting "cross-border militancy originating from Pakistan" while committing itself to providing the "healing touch".

Addressing the press conference, Sayeed said the coalition government would not implement POTA as promised by his party and as was the case in other Congress-ruled states.

The government would screen all prisoners in the state and those against whom there were no criminal cases regarding militancy would be freed.

As part of the healing touch, the CMP promises to rehabilitate the hapless victims of militancy, be they survivors of militant killings or children of killed militants.

"We will also universalise education," Sayeed said congratulating Congress president Sonia Gandhi for rising above partisanship and helping form a government in the state. "She has taken a historic decision," he said.

"Our coalition will try to put out the fire within so that nobody from outside can take advantage," he said adding all regions would be accorded equal attention and involved in decision making.

Besides Mufti and Singh, others present at the press conference were PDP Vice President Muzaffar Baig, Panthers Party Chief Bhim Singh and PDF convenor and CPI(M) leader Mohd Yusuf Tarigami.

Stating that the poll results were a "mandate for change", Tarigami said, "We have agreed to work together in the larger interests of Jammu and Kashmir." "Flexibility is required for good governance in the state," he said.

The President of J-K Panthers Party, Bhim Singh said, "We will have to wash the people's wounds... Everybody has conceded little to provide justice to everyone."

The CMP says that the goal of the coalition government is to "heal the physical, psychological and emotional wounds inflicted by 14 years of militancy", restore the rule of law in the State, complete the "revival of the political process" begun by the recent elections and "request the Government of India to initiate and hold, sincerely and seriously, wide-ranging consultations and dialogue, without conditions, with the members of the legislature and other segments of public opinion in all the three regions of the State to evolve a broad-based consensus on restoration of peace with honour in the State".

Since it is the valley-based Mufti and not a Jammu representative who would be in the chief minister's chair for the first three years at least, Congress's Manmohan Singh was at pains to pre-empt the pesky press reporters by saying that the CMP ""seeks to usher in a new era of peace and normality in the State, and sustained development of all three regions".

Praising the Congress for acting in the "national interest", the Mufti said the coalition government would not implement POTA, as there are enough laws to deal with militancy. As for the other contentious issue of the Special Operation Group (SOG), its personnel will be assimilated/relocated within the regular police establishment as part of the overall effort to "humanise" the law and order machinery.

The proposed coalition, besides reviewing all cases of detainees being held without trial for long periods, also announced its decision to review the operation of "all such laws that have been used in the past decade to deprive people of their basic rights to life and liberty without due legal process".

However, this assurance comes with the caveat that "where the government deems that some special powers need to be retained, it will ensure, by instituting careful and transparent pre-screening and monitoring procedures, that such powers are used sparingly and those entrusted with them are held accountable for any misuse".

Though the CMP was released on schedule as promised by the Congress president, Sonia Gandhi, on Saturday, while announcing the coalition, the finer details about the shape of the government continues to remain unclear. However, it is clear that the posts of coordination committee chairman, Deputy Chief Minister and Speaker will go to the Congress.

Jammu and Kashmir Congress president, Ghulam Nabi Azad, is said to be slated for the post of the coordination committee chairman, while  Jammu-based Congressman, Mangat Ram Sharma is being talked about as the likely Deputy Chief Minister. But neither Manmohan Singh nor the CWC member, Arjun Singh, who have been closely involved in the negotiations with the PDP, are willing to confirm it as yet and said a decision would be taken by Ms. Gandhi.

They were also at pains to dismiss speculations of the Congress conceding the post of Chief Minister to the PDP under compulsion.

With the CMP finalised and the coalition arrangement more or less worked out, the task of government formation in J&K will shift back to the State, and the Mufti is expected to stake claim in the next couple of days.

Likely date of the swearing-in? All that the PDP vice-president, Muzzaffar Hussain Baig, is willing to say is: "We would like Ms. Gandhi to be present".

More Coverage