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HindustanTimes Wed,22 Oct 2014

Cong sees Jammu as route to govt formation

Tarun Upadhyay, Hindustan Times  Jammu, April 08, 2013
First Published: 20:34 IST(8/4/2013) | Last Updated: 20:36 IST(8/4/2013)

In politically vertically split Kashmir region, the route for forming the government is from the Jammu region. It was first identified by former chief minister and People Democratic Power (PDP) patron Mufti Mohammad Sayeed but was made categorically clear by PCC president Prof Saifuddin Soz on Sunday.

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Addressing his first political rally after being reappointed as the Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) president Soz on Sunday said while the Congress had made considerable gains in Kashmir and had a presence in Ladakh, it's Jammu which remained the bastion of the party and it held the key in the next general elections.

Post 2002, the PDP had ended the hegemony of the National Conference by splitting the polity vertically, and has been gradually but consistently expanding its political landscape. It increased its tally from 17 in 2002 to 21 in 2008, though it couldn't form the government. As the pre-Independence party, though its nomenclature was different then, NC does stand its ground there.

The two mainly Valley-based parties had to rope in the Congress in 2002 and 2008 to form a government. Even though, the party (Congress) was crucial to the government formation, it continued to be perceived as playing a role of second fiddle, though Azad did become chief minister eventually.

It's probably for the first time since 1983, when it won 23 seats in the assembly that has a strength of 75, though NC which then single handedly ruled Kashmir got 45 seats, the party sees an opportunity to make a sweep in the elections from the Jammu region.

The BJP which had just two MLAs in 2002 had meteoritic rise in 2008 - riding on the wave of the Amarnath agitation. It raised its tally to 11, mainly by eating into Congress votes, as its number was reduced to 17.

The BJP had come down sharply in the same manner it had risen. The party high command had expelled its seven MLAs and with the public sentiment deeply hurt by the action of its MLAs (read expelled) it would be a political miracle if the party is able to retain the four seats, which its official candidates represents.

The Panthers Party despite all its efforts hasn't been able to expand itself. Though the PDP is making every possible attempt (read hard work) to make inroads here and is also getting response - a marked shift from 2008 scene - but translating public response into votes will not be that easy.

The Congress does see a political goldmine for itself in the Jammu region with weakening of the BJP and doesn't see much resistance from either the PDP or the NC here.

In Kashmir, where party got only three seats in the last elections, the party did enough spadework and it generated response, but it did suffer reverses after the hanging of Afzal Guru. Though, even after that Soz had attended five meetings of panchs there.

It was for the first time post 1975 that the Congress had virtual sweep in Jammu in 1983, even then it couldn't form the government as the NC had much larger number. But this time around, the party sees the same situation but with an important rider: NC doesn't single handedly rule the Valley now.

After 2008 elections results, Azad had said: "It's not the Congress but the Jammu that has lost."  PCC president now feels Jammu will not let itself fail again in 2014.


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