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New Delhi imposes direct rule in Indian Kashmir

NEW DELHI: Indian Kashmir was brought under New Delhi’s direct rule Friday after political rivals failed to agree on a power-sharing coalition, more than two weeks after elections in the country’s only Muslim-majority state.

A federal government spokesman confirmed that President Pranab Mukherjee had placed Governor N. N. Vohra in charge of the state, the day after the acting chief minister stepped down.

“The president has approved the governor’s rule for the state,” home ministry spokesman M.A Ganapathy told AFP after Vohra had made an official recommendation to Mukherjee.

The move comes more than two weeks after the December 23 announcement of results of the state elections which saw all parties fall way short of the 44 seats needed for an absolute majority.

Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, whose National Conference Party won only 15 seats after suffering an electoral meltdown, had stayed on as caretaker but he submitted his resignation to Vohra on Thursday.

The imposition of direct rule means local representatives will have no say in the running of Kashmir for the timebeing, a particular sensitive issue in a region where rebels have been fighting to secede from India since 1989.

It comes after the two parties which won the most seats — the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) — failed to work out a power sharing arrangement or cut a deal with other smaller parties.

The PDP won 28 seats while the BJP won 25, mainly mopping up in the mainly Hindu Jammu region in the south of the state.

Abdullah, who suffered a backlash over his government’s handling of devastating floods in September, said it was vital the state not be left in “limbo”.

“I am sorry after an election with such a good turnout we have a situation of Governor’s rule but as I’ve maintained the onus lies with PDP,” he said on Twitter.

PDP spokesman Nayeem Akhtar said that the party was still in discussions with a range of parties.

“It might lead to a brief spell of governor’s rule but ultimately a popular government has to come and serve the state because the people have voted for the government,” Akhtar told NDTV.

Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan since the two countries won independence from Britain in 1947. Both claim the Himalayan territory in full.

The rivals have exchanged heavy fire along their border in Kashmir in recent months, leading to scores of deaths on both sides while thousands of people have been displaced. -AFP

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