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Yet another NC-Congress poll alliance

But how much impact it can create?
12:00 AM Apr 10, 2024 IST | ZAHOOR MALIK
yet another nc congress poll alliance

Jammu and Kashmir has witnessed a number of National Conference (NC) and Congress alliances during assembly and parliamentary polls in past. The alliances had their positive and negative effects. The prolonged ill-effects of the alliance in 1987 assembly elections are still being debated in the political circles.


Now the two parties have again formed the alliance for the Lok Sabha polls with a call to defeat the BJP and its allies in all the six constituencies in the union territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh. As per the seat arrangement, NC will contest three seats in Kashmir and will be supported by Congress.


Likewise Congress will get the NC support for its candidates in Jammu, Udhampur and Ladakh constituencies. The major difference between past alliances and now is that Congress is neither that much strong in J&K at present nor a king maker party as it used to be in the past .


Winning the two Lok Sabha seats in Jammu seemingly continues to be a near impossible task for Congress, like 2019 and 2014 polls when BJP had bagged both the seats. Whatever support base the NC has in the two constituencies may not prove sufficient for Congress.


Congress is not contesting any seat in Kashmir but supporting the NC candidates. The only hope for the Congress is in Ladakh due to  the emerging situation there. Among other things the people in Ladakh have been demanding statehood, inclusion of Ladakh under the sixth schedule of the Indian constitution, setting up of a separate public service commission and two parliamentary seats. The Ladakh leadership said no significant headway was made in several  rounds of talks with centre on the demands.


Later, the prominent environmentalist and innovator Sonam Wangchuk went on hunger strike in support of the demands. He also called for a march to border. The march was cancelled due to imposition of Section 144 and other measures by the administration in Leh.


It is to be seen whether Congress is able to get votes in Leh this time or BJP finally achieves some breakthrough. NC can provide Congress substantial support  in Kargil district. In 2019 polls the Ladakh seat was won by the BJP.


In Kashmir, the Congress support this time is a psychological advantage to National Conference over its rival party, PDP. Justifying the support to NC, senior Congress leader Salman Khurshid told media persons in New Delhi that during hectic deliberations “we tried to find some way out.”

“But it was finally decided that NC should contest the three seats in Kashmir since the party had won these seats in 2019,” he said. The senior Congress leader added that PDP continues to be a constituent of I.N.D.I.A. At the press conference Omar stated that PDP was told to wait and support NC in parliamentary polls and was also assured that later when assembly polls are held the seat sharing arrangement can be discussed.

“PDP did not agree to it and let the party go for seat sharing in assembly polls with Congress,” said NC Vice President hinting that his party will not form an alliance with the PDP in assembly polls.

PDP President Mehbooba Mufti had recently announced that her party will support Congress for the two seats in Jammu. When asked whether Congress party will support PDP or not,  she said, “ We are not supporting Congress because we want them to support us.

We are doing so because of the prevailing situation created by the BJP government in the country. My strength is my people, my party and my workers,” the PDP President said.

Despite her claim, Congress deciding to support NC is a psychological disadvantage to PDP particularly in Anantnag-Rajouri-Poonch constituency, where Mehbooba will be herself a candidate. It can affect the mood of voters there. Perhaps the PDP President also knew that what the Congress was finally going to do and she was mentally prepared for that.

Despite the persuasion by some leaders in I.N.D.I.A, NC at no stage was willing to leave the Anantnag-Rajouri-Poonch seat for PDP. First PDP being rival party, NC leadership did not want to gift a seat to it. Secondly, NC leaders believe that in any contest- straight or multi cornered- their  party has more potential to win all the three seats.

Then why to leave any of the seats? According to them, the massive political damage PDP suffered by forming coalition government with BJP in 2015 is almost irreparable for a long time for the party. This was evident when PDP lost all the three seats in 2019 elections.

The NC circles believe that Mehbooba Mufti has been single-handedly able to recover some of the lost space by trying to take tough stand against BJP and the central government decisions since the abrogation of Article 370.

But her party has not yet reached a position where it can win any of the three parliamentary seats, say the leaders of the premier political party. The NC leadership has been successful in convincing Congress leadership on this issue. That  became obvious when the two parties finally announced in New Delhi to fight parliamentary polls together in J&K  and divulged the seat sharing arrangement also.

National Conference and other opponent parties have been putting the blame on PDP for everything which the central government did since August 5, 2019 in J&K. They have been accusing the party of bringing BJP to Kashmir by forming coalition government with it.

An impression is being created by them among the people that if  PDP- BJP coalition government was not formed in 2015, the Article 370 could not have been abrogated, J&K not bifurcated into two union territories and  subsequent laws not made.  According to political analysts PDP has not been able to successfully counter its opponents on this front.

Some time back senior BJP leader Devendra Singh Rana, a former National Conference leader,  revealed that NC had desperately tried to form a coalition government with BJP after 2014 assembly polls but its offer was rejected. And then it is also a fact that NC was part of BJP led NDA government at centre during Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s tenure as the Prime Minister.

In the present scenario PDP may be feeling betrayed as Congress could not convince or did not pressurise NC to leave the Anantnag-Rajouri-Poonch seat for it. Mehbooba had been strongly advocating strengthening of I.N.D.I.A to counter BJP.

Through her speeches and statements she keeps on targeting BJP government and its policies in Jammu and Kashmir and at national level. The PDP President says that since she has been raising her voice strongly for the suffering people, BJP is making all efforts to ensure she does not win the election.

“Delhi is using its full might in Anantnag-Rajouri-Poonch constituency to get me defeated by fielding candidates directly and indirectly against me. I have accepted their challenge and I am contesting,” she said.

Mehbooba appealed the people and also the NC and Congress workers and supporters to support her and elect her to the parliament as  she “is the voice of the suffering people of Jammu and Kashmir.”

For obvious reasons  the NC workers and supporters will reject her call but what about Congress workers on the ground? Will they really go by their party high command directive and vote for NC or not? It has been noticed that sometimes some workers and supporters from the non-contesting parties of the alliance give their votes to candidates of rival parties. Mehbooba herself has a Congress background.

She had won her first assembly election in 1996 on Congress ticket and later became the Congress legislature party leader in the J&K legislative assembly. Her father, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, had a long association with Congress and is being considered as the architect of the party in J&K. Both  Mehbooba and Mufti resigned from Congress before launching their own party, PDP.

Omar Abdullah recently alleged that during District Development Council ( DDC) polls in 2020 the PDP votes were not transferred to NC.  NC and PDP being the constituents of People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) had jointly contested the DDC elections.

Will NC leadership now start fearing about the real response of Congress voters particularly in south Kashmir towards its candidates? Will the Congress votes get actually transferred to NC or those will secretly go to the PDP? Congress high command will try that in Kashmir and Rajouri and Poonch areas the Congress votes go to NC only.

But much will also depend upon the mood of the Congress workers on the polling day. There is a feeling in some Congress cadres that their party “should have fielded candidates in Kashmir constituencies as well and not left the electoral field wide open for NC, which was associated with BJP in past and can go for such an association in future also.”

According to them  the complete invisibility of Congress in Kashmir poll arena during Lok Sabha polls is not in the interests of their party. They feel that even if PDP loses all the three seats, it can register its presence and that will ultimately help the party in assembly polls later. 

Author is senior editor, Greater Kashmir

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