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Central & South Asia
Pro-Indian leader to rule Kashmir
Omar Abdullah of National Conference to head coalition with Congress party.
Last Modified: 30 Dec 2008 15:31 GMT
Omar Abdullah, 38, will be the state's
youngest chief minister [AFP]

A pro-Indian politician is set to head the next government in Indian-administered Kashmir.

"It was decided that I will head the coalition government in Jammu and Kashmir," Omar Abdullah, leader of the National Conference, said on Tuesday.

No single party managed to win a majority in the provincial elections which took place in several phases and ended last week.

The National Conference, which won 28 of the state assembly's 87 seats, and the Congress party, which won 17, struck an agreement on Tuesday to form a new coalition, giving them a majority in the state parliament.

Abdullah met Sonia Gandhi, the leader of the Congress party, on Tuesday to formalise the formation of the coalition.

The People's Democratic Party will provide the main opposition with 21 seats.

High participation

The elections saw a high voter turnout - more than 60 per cent - despite boycott calls by separatists who said the election would strengthen India's hold on the region.  

Voting was largely peaceful, though there were scattered anti-India protests throughout.

Abdullah, 38, will be the third generation of his family to hold the post of chief minister. He inherited the National Conference leadership in 2002 from Farooq, his father. Sheikh Abdullah, his grandfather, was the region's most infuential leader in his lifetime.

Mirwaiz Omar Farooq, a key separatist leader, dismissed the new coalition as a shuffle of the same faces and ideologies.

"What is to be seen is whether this government will muster courage and represent the aspirations of people here,'' he said.

"What we need is a policy change in Kashmir, not an administrative change.''

The elections ended nearly six months of direct rule by New Delhi, after the previous chief minister resigned in August, following weeks of protests that left more than 50 people dead.

The Kashmir region is divided into Indian and Pakistan-controlled sections and the both countries claim it in its entirety.

Separatist groups have been fighting since 1989 to end Indian rule.

Source:
Agencies
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