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Trouble brewing between J&K ruling parties

By Aasha Khosa in New Delhi
July 16, 2009 14:45 IST
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The induction of 11 more ministers in the Jammu and Kashmir government, including five from the National Conference and four from the Congress, has left a trail of mistrust between the ruling alliance and infighting in the Congress has spilled out into the open.

Chief Minister Omar Abdullah sprang a surprise by opting to keep his uncle Sheikh Mustafa Kamal out of the Cabinet. While this was a clever image-building exercise by the CM, several other stalwarts were left complaining about not being included in the Cabinet.

Only last year, the state legislature had passed its own legislation limiting the size of the Cabinet, allowing the chief minister to add just three more ministers to his Cabinet.

But the worst fallout of this exercise has been in the Congress, where veteran leader Choudhary Mohammad Aslam has staged an open revolt against his non-inclusion. Aslam has blamed state Congress chief Saifuddin Soz for deleting his name from the list of Congress nominees at the last minute.

Aslam, who arrived in New Delhi on Wednesday to hold talks with Congress President Sonia Gandhi and other central leaders, is believed to be so upset with Soz's alleged role that he almost quit the party.

It may be mentioned that Aslam hails from the Jammu region, which has returned a majority of Congress legislators.

Aslam said while his name was included in the list prepared by Union Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, it was Soz who had conspired against him by sending an amended list to the chief minister that did not have his name.

The Congress can hardly ignore Aslam's angry outburst. Party sources said it was likely that Aslam would be made the state party chief in place of Soz, who had been dropped from the prime minister's new Cabinet.

In yet another twist to the tale, the National Conference is blaming Congress leaders Soz and Prithviraj Chavan (also the party officebearer in charge of the state), for indiscretion and "high-handedness" for announcing portfolios of the newly sworn-in minister even before the chief minister had allocated these. Observers say this was yet another instance of growing mistrust between the two ruling allies.
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Aasha Khosa in New Delhi
Source: source