The People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) – an alliance forged by Kashmir’s regional parties to fight for the restoration of Article 370 in J&K – may not contest the assembly elections together.
Indications of that possibility came on Wednesday at the provincial committee meeting of the National Conference (NC) where senior party leaders conveyed to the NC top brass that they should contest all the 90 seats of the Jammu and Kashmir assembly on its own.
NC spokesman Imran Nabi Dar said, “PAGD is a political alliance where the constituents are all striving to get back to the 2019 status. It (PAGD) is not an electoral alliance.” He, however, did not clarify if this means an end to the “electoral arrangement” that the leaders of the two big parties in the PAGD had earlier maintained.
The J&K assembly is not functioning for the last four years ever since BJP pulled the plug on the PDP-led coalition government in 2018. The next year, in 2019, the Centre abrogated Article 370 and bifurcated the erstwhile state into two Union Territories – J&K with an assembly and Ladakh without it.
There is a remote chance that assembly elections will be held this year as the revision of voter rolls will get completed by November 25. With J&K plunging below freezing point in December and most of the areas becoming inaccessible due to heavy snow, it would be difficult to conduct polls by March next year.
Whenever the assembly elections are conducted, the National Conference’s Wednesday meeting will have a critical bearing on the poll results in J&K.
With the BJP breathing down the neck of Kashmir’s regional parties, the alliance or its breaking will have a significant impact on who eventually takes the saddle.
NC leaders said some PAGD constituents were spreading negativity about party
At the NC meeting today, attended by party’s vice president Omar Abdullah also, party leaders expressed their unwillingness to contest the assembly elections jointly with PAGD. Apart from the NC, the PAGD comprises PDP, CPI(M) and Awami National Conference, although seven parties had initially come together to form the umbrella group.
NC’s Provincial Committee members unanimously resolved that the party should prepare and contest all 90 seats alone. They also said that some parties in the PAGD were spreading negativity and indulging in propaganda against the NC and demanded immediate course correction in this regard.
Only way to protect J&Ks identity is to first register, and cast your vote in huge numbers: @OmarAbdullah to people.Provincial Committee members unanimously resolved that JKNC should prepare and fight all 90 seats. pic.twitter.com/dhS9fYKYBS— JKNC (@JKNC_) August 24, 2022
“The vice president (Omar Abdullah) in his response acknowledged the concerns raised by the participants and reiterated that the interest of the people of J&K and JKNC will be safeguarded,” an NC spokesman said in a statement.
The NC members also talked about the issue of the proposed inclusion of non-local voters in Jammu and Kashmir. Omar Abdullah said clarity was needed from the Election Commission of India on whether the exercise will add 25 lakh new voters and from where they will come.
“The chief electoral officer’s statement to include non-locals who live ordinarily in J&K has triggered fears of demographic flooding and political disempowerment within the public. We are yet to ascertain if the final electoral rolls will include those ordinarily residing voters,” he said at the meeting.
“Our concerns with regard to requirements for outsiders to get registered continue to remain unmet. The clarity provided by government quarters has failed to address our core concerns on the issue,” he added.
Abdullah also urged people to register as voters in huge numbers. “The remedy lies with our people, who if they choose to vote in huge numbers can thwart these attempts aimed at disempowering the people of J&K. Therefore, people have to make it a point to come out and vote in huge numbers,” he added.
PAGD is a union of opportunists: BJP
The suggestion of NC leaders going solo in polls is a major departure from the earlier stand of PAGD leaders like NC chief Farooq Abdullah, his son Omar and PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti who had been maintaining that the PAGD would fight “polls together to stop BJP’s communal politics in J&K”.
Farooq Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti had stated more than once that PAGD would contest polls together.
The PAGD had contested the DDC polls together. People’s Conference chief Sajad Lone, who was earlier a part of the alliance, left the grouping alleging that the parties were not following the alliance dharma and fielding proxies against each other.
Meanwhile, in its first reaction to the development, PDP said reservations of some PAGD constituents against an electoral tie-up won’t “impact our unity for the larger goal”.
PDP chief spokesperson Syed Suhail Bukhari tweeted, “PAGD was conceived for a much larger cause than just an electoral alliance. If some constituent of the alliance has reservations for any kind of electoral alliance, that will not impact our unity for the larger goal.”
PAGD was conceived for a much larger cause than just an electoral alliance .If some constituent of the Alliance has reservations for any kind of electoral alliance , that will not impact our unity for the larger goal .— Syed Suhail Bukhari (@Suhail_Bukhari) August 24, 2022
The BJP, on the other hand, is on a wait-and-watch mode and not “complaining” over the development. A senior BJP leader from Jammu said this was expected as the alliance had no goal and was only fooling the public. He also said that this would help the BJP in the elections.
“The PAGD is a union of opportunists. The dynasts’ lust for power will have only one result – PAGD’s annihilation. But it is true we aren’t complaining. We are watching,” he said.