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Friends Now, Foes Later: Rahul Gandhi and Omar Abdullah Strike ‘Peculiar' Alliance in J&K

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.

Aakash Hassan | News18.com@Aakashhassan

Updated:March 21, 2019, 12:05 PM IST
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Friends Now, Foes Later: Rahul Gandhi and Omar Abdullah Strike ‘Peculiar' Alliance in J&K
File Photo. Congress President Rahul Gandhi and NC Vice President Omar Abdullah at a public rally in Kashmir (PTI)
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Srinagar: After days of negotiations in Delhi and Srinagar, the National Conference (NC) and the Congress on Wednesday announced an alliance for the Lok Sabha elections in the restive state of Jammu and Kashmir.

Termed as a step “in national interest” which will “help strengthen secular forces”, the seat-sharing agreement is a peculiar one.

Jammu and Kashmir has six Lok Sabha seats — three in the Kashmir Valley, two in Jammu region and one in Ladakh. While NC will support Congress on the two seats in Jammu, the latter will be supporting NC only on one seat in Kashmir — Srinagar. The parties will contest against each other in the two seats of the south and north Kashmir. The fate of Ladakh seat is yet to be decided.

Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad and NC patron Farooq Abdullah jointly told the media that while the Congress will contest the Jammu and Udhampur Lok Sabha seats, National Conference will fight from Srinagar.

The parties said they will have “friendly contest” on the two seats.

During the negotiations, NC had remained adamant on fighting all the three seats in the Kashmir Valley, party sources said. However, the Congress was demanding an equal share from all three regions.

“While we entered into an alliance with the Congress in the larger interest of the nation, we could not have overlooked the interests of the party,” NC’s provincial president Nasir Aslam told News18. “We will fight each other in Anantnag and Baramulla, while we will be supporting Congress in Jammu.”

Is the Congress a Divided House in J&K?

While most of the leaders of the National Conference seemed content with the decision, the leaders of the Congress seemed unhappy.

“If the NC is fighting to strengthen secular forces, they should have given an equal share to us. It seems our party has bowed to pressure from NC,” a senior Congress leader in the state told News18, wishing to remain anonymous.

“We did not agree to the demands of the NC because it is not affordable for us to tell our workers to vote for NC. Given our experience, the vote doesn’t transfer, rather it affects the number of workers the party already had,” said former Congress MLA Gulzar Ahmad.

Sources in the Congress said there is division in the party. Some leaders have issues with the state leadership of the party, which is headed by GA Mir, who is believed to be closer to the Gandhi family.

“Despite Mir as head of the state Congress, nearly half of our cadre prefer to report to Ghulam Nabi Azad,” a senior party leader said.

Azad has also been appointed as head of election affairs of the party for the state. “It was after some of the leaders from J&K approached Delhi leadership and asked them to appoint Azad as head of election affairs in the state,” the leader said.

The people who report directly to Azad see Mir as a junior member in the party who has been elevated to the top post of the state due to personal liaison in Gandhi family.

“This is a terribly bad deal which will lead only to the division of votes,” said another Congress leader.

As of now, there is another internal crisis in the Congress. The senior leaders who are seen as potential candidates for the Lok Sabha seats in Kashmir don’t want to contest, party sources said.

In south Kashmir, we have GA Mir as a potential candidate, a party leader said, but he doesn’t appear willing now to contest and wants to field a junior leader.

In the Kashmir Valley, the Congress has suffered a bad record when it comes to general elections. The last Lok Sabha member the party sent from Kashmir was in 1998 when Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, then head of Congress in the state, won the Anantnag seat. Since then, there has been not a single Congress MP from J&K.
| Edited by: Aditya Sharma
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