Allies intervene, Cong rushes Azad to save alliance as NC says ‘no’

Cong to support Farooq even if no tie-up

PDPCG decides to contest all 6 seats

Sanjeev Pargal
JAMMU, Mar 19: Deadlock prevailed over National Conference-Congress tie-up with NC Parliamentary Board (NCPB) in its extended meeting today firmly ruling out any tie-up with the Congress after which two ‘Mahagathbandhan’ partners rang up NC president, Dr Farooq Abdullah and insisted upon him to reconsider the decision while Congress high command deputed Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha and former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister, Ghulam Nabi Azad to Jammu tomorrow for fresh negotiations to save the alliance.
The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) Core Group met here under the chairpersonship of party president Mehbooba Mufti and gave final touch to the names of party candidates for two seats of Jammu region. Mehbooba will return to Srinagar on Thursday and could announce list of party’s all six candidates for Lok Sabha the same day. The PDP has decided to contest all six Parliamentary seats in the State.
The NCPB resumed its meeting, which had remained inconclusive last evening, today under the chairmanship of Dr Farooq Abdullah in Srinagar in which all leaders from both Kashmir and Jammu regions unanimously resolved that the National Conference should contest all six Parliamentary seats without having any alliance with the Congress.
The Parliamentary Board approved the name of Retired High Court Judge Justice Hasnain Masoodi for South Kashmir’s Anantnag Lok Sabha seat, delivering a jolt to the Congress, which wanted the seat for its State president, GA Mir in the event of an alliance. With this, NC has named candidates for all three Lok Sabha seats of Kashmir. The party has already fielded Dr Farooq Abdullah for Srinagar-Budgam and Mohammad Akbar Lone, former Legislative Assembly Speaker, for Baramulla-Kupwara constituency.
Farooq conveyed the NCPB decision to Congress high command in New Delhi on telephone from Srinagar. The Congress, which was struggling to revive the party in Jammu and Kashmir after drubbing in 2014 Parliamentary and Assembly elections, was stunned by the NC decision, sources said, adding that within minutes of the NC decision, senior leaders from two prominent Congress allies, who were part of ‘Mahagathbandhan’, rang up Dr Abdullah and wanted him to re-consider his decision of not aligning with the Congress.
Dr Abdullah reached Jammu this afternoon to discuss candidates for two Lok Sabha seats but deferred the decision after getting the telephone calls from ‘Mahagathbandhan’ leaders, who were of the view that Dr Abdullah was part and parcel of `Mahagathbandhan’ and was trying for patch-up between AAP and Congress in New Delhi and if he himself doesn’t go for alliance with the Congress, it would send wrong signal countrywide.
In the meantime, the Congress high command also came into action and deputed Ghulam Nabi Azad led team to Jammu. He will reach here at 12 noon tomorrow and would hold talks with Dr Abdullah. Sources said one or two senior leaders from both the parties could join the dialogue.
In the meantime, the Congress Election Committee, which met in New Delhi tonight, deferred the announcement of candidates on Jammu and Kashmir pending talks with the National Conference tomorrow.
The Congress high command conveyed to Farooq Abdullah that even if there was no alliance between the two parties, they will not field candidate against him (Farooq) from Srinagar-Budgam Lok Sabha constituency.
The National Conference leadership today also met senior party leaders from Leh and Kargil districts of Ladakh division and asked them to come up with a Panel of candidates for finalization of name by the Parliamentary Board. The NC has named BR Kundal, former Chief Secretary, for Jammu-Poonch seat but, according to party sources, his name was yet to be approved by the Parliamentary Board. The NC hasn’t named any candidate for Udhampur-Doda Lok Sabha seat so far. The NC high command has told the Congress leaders that if Azad contests the election from Udhampur seat, it will not field candidate against him.
The NC and Congress had contested three seats each in 2014 Lok Sabha elections and both the parties had drawn blank with BJP and PDP winning three each. NC had contested all three seats of Kashmir Valley and Congress two seats of Jammu region and one from Ladakh.
Meanwhile, the PDP Core Group met here this afternoon under the leadership of party president Mehbooba Mufti and deliberated upon the election strategy for two Lok Sabha seats of Jammu region including names of the contestants.
PDP senior leader and former Minister Naeem Akhter told the Excelsior that the PDP being the largest party of the State with maximum number of former MLAs, three Lok Sabha members in 2014 and two Rajya Sabha members in 2015, will be contesting all six Parliamentary seats in the State.
Naeem denied that the PDP was in touch with Congress for alliance in the Lok Sabha polls.
“We won’t let down our cadre by aligning with any political party,” he said.
Party sources said the PDP Core Group was unanimous that they should forcefully contest the election on both seats of Jammu region and projected names of Zulfkar Choudhary, former Minister and Firdous Tak, former MLC, for Jammu-Poonch and Udhampur-Doda Lok Sabha seats respectively. However, certain other names were also under consideration.
The PDP Core Group left final decision of candidates to Mehbooba Mufti including total number of seats to be contested and whether to go for any kind of alliance.
Mehbooba will return to Srinagar on Thursday, when the PDP is expected to announce candidates for all six Parliamentary seats.
Speaking to reporters here, Mehbooba said, the PDP was not in touch with the Congress for any kind of electoral tie-up.
“We will field candidates on all six seats,” she said.
On custodial death of a Kashmir youth, she said the PDP Government had closed interrogations centre and disbanned SOG as their role wasn’t good. She called for stern action against those responsible for the custodial killing of the youth.
On Omar’s statement that Shah Faesal was creation of the Centre, Mehbooba said anyone has right to join politics.
“J&K is not personal property of NC. They had levelled similar allegations against us when the PDP was formed,” Mehbooba said.
To a question regarding ceasefire violations on the Line of Control (LoC), Mehbooba said they might continue till elections.
On BJP’s ‘Chowkidar campaign’, the PDP president said Vijay Mallaya and Nirav Modi fled the country during the BJP Government looting crores of rupees of the nation.