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Resolute Congress hopes to blunt BJP

india Updated: Jan 29, 2014 20:01 IST
Tarun Upadhyay
Tarun Upadhyay
Hindustan Times

It is not for the first time that Omar Abdullah has threatened to resign, as he did last evening. In the last one month, he has threatened to pull the coalition government down thrice over differences with the Congress on announcing new administrative units.

The Congress, which has been part of the government in two successive terms, has a main political stay in Jammu region, having 37 Assembly constituencies. It had won 17 seats in the last election, 14 from Jammu and three from Kashmir.

The NC, with 28 seats, had only six from Jammu division.

The differences are not over logics, but political perception. The Congress hopes to emerge as the single largest party in the next assembly elections scheduled in November. And it was quite confident till Modi was made BJP's prime ministerial candidate.

And now, it doesn't want a repeat of 2008 assembly elections held after Amarnath Land row, when the state was polarised on regional and religious lines.

In the aftermath of the land row, Congress' tally came down to 17 from 21, and BJP's shot up to 11 from just one in 2002- its highest ever.

Importantly, the BJP lost four seats to Congress by a margin of just about 2,000 votes.

In 2008, GN Azad was the most popular leader, even in Kashmir, and the party was hopeful of forming the next government on its own. But the Amarnath Land row undid it all.

"It's not the Congress but Jammu that has lost," Azad had said after the results were announced. Here lies the key to differences.

The party feels that any public perception of it succumbing to the NC, seen as a Kashmir-based party in Jammu, would make it political susceptible to attack from BJP. A surprisingly resurgent BJP, mainly on account of the Modi factor, has already brought back five of its expelled MLAs, and is hoping to further its tally.

The Congress is basing its confrontational mode with a cushion of logic. The Ganderbal district, a constituency represented by Omar Abdullah, with three-lakh population and an area of nearly 1,000 sq-km, has three tehsils, while Jammu with 2,336 sq-km area and 15 lakh population has only four tehsils.

The party hopes to take on the NC with the help of such figures. Not only would it be able to blunt the BJP's regional attack, it will also not antagonise Kashmir, where it hopes to do well.

By already delaying the report by six months- Omar had asked it to submit in September 2013- it had tried to send a message to Omar that it can't be "my way or highway", and had ensured it doesn't hit a roadblock on the political highway of the state.