Sonia Gandhi Meets Mehbooba Mufti

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Srinagar: Congress president Sonia Gandhi met Peoples Democratic Party chief Mehbooba Mufti on Sunday, a visit which is being seen as a politically significant one given the fast-paced developments in Jammu and Kashmir after the death of chief minister Mufti Mohammed Sayeed.

Gandhi, after arriving from Delhi, drove straight from the airport to the Fairview residence of Mehbooba in Gupkar Road area of Srinagar at 3pm. She stayed with the PDP president for about 20 minutes.

The Congress president was accompanied by Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad, Congress general secretary Ambika Soni, state Congress chief G A Mir and party leader Saifuddin Soz.

The Congress has, however, maintained that it was not a political visit. “Sonia Gandhi’s visit was just to offer prayer and condolence. There was no political agenda involved, you should ask Mehboobaji about the political developments in the state,” Ghulam Nabi Azad said after the meeting.

There are already some anxieties about the future of PDP-BJP alliance in the state. There are many who feel that the contradictions between the two parties could become exacerbated. Jammu and Kashmir deputy chief minister Nirmal Singh visited Mehbooba and held long consultations after her father’s death. Ram Madhav also visited, one of the very few people she agreed to meet. And today, Union minister Nitin Gadkari also visited Mehbooba’s home to offer condelence to the family.

“I met Mehbooba Mufti to express grief. It was not a political meet,” Gadkari said.

Sources have told media that Mehbooba has set tough conditions for the BJP if they want to continue the alliance. According to sources, the PDP has made it clear that it can’t give the deputy chief minister’s post to the BJP, it has also asked for more central assistance and and asked its alliance partner to avoid speaking on sensitive issues.

Mehbooba Mufti is all set to become the first woman chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir after her father’s death, but the has largely remained closeted in her home, refusing to take oath until the four-day mourning period is over. The Mufti home is swarming with mourners, many in tears, shaking their heads, all expressing their shock at Mufti’s sudden death. Mehbooba remained shut away from the crowds, not meeting anyone except close family and associates.

The PDP had earlier shared power with Congress between 2002 and 2008, with both parties having their chief minister on rotational basis after three years. They later had a bitter split in 2008. PDP has already given a letter to Governor N N Vohra, saying that all its 28 MLAs support Mehbooba for the chief ministership.

Jammu and Kashmir governor NN Vohra on Friday had asked both PDP and BJP to convey their position on the government formation. Since BJP did not convey its position, the Governor on Saturday imposed the President’s Rule in the state.

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