Having been together in the coalition government in Jammu and Kashmir for the past six years, the Congress and the National Conference (NC) are virtually at each other’s throats in the ongoing assembly elections.
While J&K chief minister Omar Abdullah has blamed the Congress for polarising the state in 2008 during the Amarnath land row, both Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi have accused the NC leader of being “lethargic” and having “failed” to implement the UPA government’s development agenda in the state.
With two crucial phases of polling remaining, the Congress seems to have an edge. The party has recovered some ground in Kashmir and is locked in a tough fight with the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in at least 10-12 of the total 46 constituencies in the Valley.
Congress leaders are hopeful that the party would do well in Gurez, Bandipora, Sopore, Sangrama, Baramulla, Uri, Beerwah, Anantnag, Shangus, Dooru, Kokernag and Rafiabad.
Even PDP leaders concede that the Congress is posing a threat to their party on few seats. “NC has abdicated its space of being a key player in all these constituencies while Congress promptly occupied that,” PDP spokesperson Naeem Akhtar told HT. “We have a direct fight with Congress on many seats in Kashmir.”
Congress leaders feel that the party would have gained more had it withdrawn from the NC-led coalition government earlier. “We are facing the ire of voters in many parts of the state mainly because the people are angry with Omar for his six years of misrule,” a senior Congress leader said.
However, the Congress was also upbeat of a good show in Jammu region as well. “People of Jammu have realised that BJP can go to any extent to win elections and even shun its core agenda. There is a feeling that BJP is not coming to power in J&K and therefore voting for it will be a waste,” another Congress leader said.