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Tuesday, 15 October, 2002, 16:32 GMT 17:32 UK
Kashmir party hardens stand
Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad (c) at a party meeting after the polls
The Congress party wants Mr Azad to become the chief minister
One of the major parties seeking to form a coalition government in Indian-administered Kashmir has issued an ultimatum to its most likely partner.

The president of the People's Democratic Party, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, says he will not make an alliance with the Congress Party unless he gets the chief minister's post.

According to the constitution, the new government must be in place by 17 October, or the region will come under direct rule from Delhi.

Last week's election threw out the National Conference, which had held power for 50 years.

Meanwhile, Congress Party members have been talking up their chances of being invited to form the government.

Whoever forms the new administration will need the support of smaller parties and independents who hold 20 seats.

Congress claims

Congress emerged as the second biggest group with 20 seats in the 87-member assembly, and its members claim to have the support of many of the smaller groups.

Omar Abdullah
Omar Abdullah wants to continue in state politics
They are also hoping to win over nearly a dozen members from the PDP, which controls 16 seats.

But Mr Sayeed warned anyone elected on his party's ticket that they would "face the wrath of the people", should they join another party.

Despite the apparent impasse, the PDP has rejected suggestions of direct rule from Delhi if the 17 October deadline is not met.

The PDP has also been talking to the newly-formed People's Democratic Forum, which has eight seats.

The BBC's Altaf Hussain in Srinagar says some PDF members have indicated they will back Kashmir Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad for chief minister, if Congress and the PDP fail to team up.

The PDP insists its leader should head the government.

It wants the top post to go to a Muslim from the Kashmir Valley, the centre of the armed insurgency which has left tens of thousands dead in the past decade.

Who should lead?

Mr Azad is a Muslim from the Hindu-dominated Jammu region.

He says he will seek agreement with the PDP and other "like-minded parties and individuals", but would still try to form a government if he fails.

"Congress is of the opinion that it should head the government but the PDP wants the lead role," he said on Monday.

The National Conference party which ruled the state before the elections has emerged with the highest number of seats, though well short of a majority.

It could still stitch together an alternative coalition to retain power and its hopes were boosted when an independent legislator joined the party on Tuesday.

But analysts believe it may not find allies in sufficient numbers.

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11 Oct 02 | South Asia
11 Oct 02 | South Asia
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