The Congress on Sunday announced that it would contest the upcoming assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir on its own, marking an end to its five-and-a-half-year-old alliance with the National Conference (NC). On June 17, HT was the first to report that the alliance partners had decided to snap ties.
J&K chief minister Omar Abdullah, however, claimed it was him, not the Congress, who ended the alliance. In a series of tweets, he said he had met Congress chief Sonia Gandhi 10 days ago and told her that his party would not align with hers. “For it (the split) to be spun as a Congress decision is wrong and a complete distortion of facts,” he tweeted. The CM, however, ruled out any threat to the state government, saying that the alliance would continue till the polls.
Congress leader and former J&K chief minister Ghulam Nabi Azad told reporters that the party would aim for a simple majority by contesting all of the state’s 87 seats in the polls scheduled for November. “It has been our experience – and proved in the recent parliamentary elections – that the votes of one party don’t get transferred to the others if elections are contested in a pre-poll alliance. So why take a risk this time too?” Azad said.
In an interview to a local agency, Abdullah claimed an alliance would have harmed the NC. He said that the Congress couldn’t transfer its votes in the Valley to the NC during the recently-concluded LS polls but it benefitted from the NC’s votes in Jammu. “If the past was repeated in the Assembly elections, it could have caused damage. Now both parties will contest elections separately. Let us see who performs better,” Abdullah said.
A section of the state Congress has, however, urged its leadership to withdraw support so that elections are held under governor’s rule. ”If we don’t snap all ties now, our decision to go it alone won’t yield results. Our opponents will also dismiss it as match-fixing,” a senior J&K Congress leader told Hindustan Times.
The National Conference and Congress party came together with 28 and 17 legislator seach in 2009 following the assembly polls. They fought the 2014 LS elections together, drawing a blank.
The National Conference had contested all three Lok Sabha seats in Kashmir while the Congress fought in two seats in Jammu and one in Ladakh.
The Opposition PDP claimed the NC was in favour of a coalition and was left shaken by the Congress’ decision to contest alone. “The NC left many seats unnamed in its first list of candidates, showing willingness to continue the alliance. This decision will leave it shaken,” said PDP leader Ilyas Laway.
Earlier in the day, Azad – frontrunner as Congress’ CM candidate — said issues of governance and corruption weren’t pursued vigorously by the government. He refrained from directly criticizing Abdullah. “After fiveand-a-half years, it’s not right to say if our experience with Abdullah was good or bad,” he said.