First Foot Forward: Congress, NC to Join Hands in J&K, Alliance in Final Stage

News18.com
Both parties will contest against each other in the two seats of the south and north Kashmir but will support each other in the other three seats of the state.

Srinagar: The Farooq Abdullah-led National Conference (NC) and Congress are all set to go for an alliance in Jammu and Kashmir ahead of the Lok Sabha polls starting April 11.

Sources from both camps have told News18 that Congress president Rahul Gandhi and NC vice-president Omar Abdullah are meeting in New Delhi soon and negotiating the alliance arrangement.

In the possible alliance, the National Conference will be supporting Congress in Jammu region, which has remained in BJP control in previous elections. The region has two seats and both were won by BJP in 2014 Lok Sabha polls.

In Kashmir, Congress will be supporting NC candidates. Kashmir has three seats, which were all won by the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in 2014. However, the PDP candidate from Srinagar, Tariq Hameed Karra, had resigned and joined Congress back in 2016. In the following year, bypolls were held in Kashmir where in NC’s Farooq Abdullah won amid violence and seven percent voter turnout – the lowest in thirty years.

On the third seat in Kashmir was Mehbooba Mufti which was necessary for her as she had taken the CM chair. She contested assembly elections after she resigned from her parliamentary seat following her father’s death.

Another seat in J&K is in Ladakh division, which was won by BJP in last elections. It is not clear what will be the fate of this region in the forthcoming NC-Congress alliance.

Closing in on Delhi


On Tuesday, J&K state president of Congress traveled to Delhi and held a number of meetings with his party leadership. Congress has appointed Ghulam Nabi Azaad, the Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha and the former chief minister of J&K, as its head for campaign and election management committee in the state.

On Wednesday, Congress chief Rahul Gandhi had hinted to the alliance’s announcement and said that it is “close to final stages.”

The National Conference is already part of Mahagathbandhan, an emerging united "Federal Front" to counter Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Most of the leaders of both the parties in the state are with the formation of this alliance.

“If we come together at this time. BJP will be defeated, completely in the state,” said Congress leader, Vikar Rasool. “Meetings are going on between top leadership in Delhi. From our side, it would be Rahul Gandhi, Ghulam Nabi Azaad and GA Mir who will take the decision,” he added.

While all the NC leaders, whom News18 talked to, accepted that meetings are going on and the process is in the final stage, some of them expressed their reservation for the alliance.

“A lot of workers of our party will not be happy with this decision. Also, there is every possibility that it may harm our voter base in several areas,” a senior NC leader told News18 on the condition of anonymity.

Through Thick and Thin


NC has a long history of alliances with Congress.

In 1965, the National Conference merged with the Indian National Congress (INC) and became the party’s J&K branch. However, NC founder Sheikh Abdullah was arrested for the second time that year for conspiring against the state and remained in jail for around three years.

He had created the Plebiscite Front faction which he later changed back into National Conference as he was allowed to return to power in February 1975 upon ​sealing a deal with the central government.

Later, NC formed an alliance with Congress in 1987 and 2008 and came to power in the state.

In 2009, it was for the first time that both the Congress and the NC fought the Lok Sabha polls together under an alliance. All the two seats of Jammu region were won by Congress. However, it lost Ladakh seat to an NC rebel who contested as an Independent candidate. Nevertheless, NC won all the three seats of the Kashmir Valley.

In 2014 general elections both the parties again went for the alliance but didn’t secure even a single seat.

Resistance or Deceit


On Wednesday NC also alleged PDP of still being in alliance with the BJP, saying they are hand-in-glove to influence the polls by “deceit and deception.”

In a joint statement, senior National Conference (NC) leaders said: “We have credible information about PDP soliciting the advice and direction of the BJP for fielding candidates, convenient to it, for Jammu-Poonch and Kathua-Udhampur parliamentary constituencies, to facilitate the division of anti-BJP votes in order to ensuring the victory of BJP candidates.”

However, PDP said in a response that these type of statements are destroying the scope of combined resistance to the designs of BJP and their assault on the special position in Jammu and Kashmir.

BJP in June last year pulled out of the alliance with the PDP. Later in November, all the three parties joined hands together to form a government. But stakes were also claimed by BJP ally, Sajad Lone, whose party, Peoples Conference was joined by few prominent erstwhile PDP leaders. The assembly was dissolved by the Governor.

In the new alliance, however, PDP has not been included.

This will be the third time when NC and Congress will be going for a pre-poll alliance in parliamentary elections. But leaders of both the parties stressed as this alliance will be only for parliamentary polls.