NC gives 2 Jammu seats to Cong, takes Srinagar; friendly fight on 3

Congress leaders Ghulam Nabi Azad and Ambika Soni and NC president Dr Farooq Abdullah at a press conference inJammu on Wednesday. —Excelsior/Rakesh
Congress leaders Ghulam Nabi Azad and Ambika Soni and NC president Dr Farooq Abdullah at a press conference inJammu on Wednesday. —Excelsior/Rakesh

Alliance stitched in meeting of top leaders of 2 parties
Cong CEC to name 5  candidates soon
Sanjeev Pargal
JAMMU, Mar 20: The National Conference and Congress today entered into an alliance on three out of six Lok Sabha seats in the State and decided to have friendly contest on three others in the absence of a consensus on their sharing as top leaders of the two parties declared that their tie-up will strengthen secular forces, both in the State as well as the country.
The seat sharing agreement was clinched at a meeting between prominent leaders of National Conference and Congress held at NC president and former Chief Minister, Dr Farooq Abdullah’s Bhatindi residence. NC working president Omar Abdullah was not present in the meeting, which was attended by Dr Farooq Abdullah, Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha, Ghulam Nabi Azad, AICC (I) general secretary, Incharge Jammu and Kashmir, Ambika Soni, PCC (I) chief GA Mir and former Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leader Nawang Rigzin Jora, Mohammad Shafi Uri, Devender Singh Rana and Nasir Aslam Wani from National Conference.
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As per the agreement, Congress will contest both Lok Sabha seats of Jammu region including Jammu-Poonch and Udhampur-Doda and National Conference will not field its candidates there while NC will fight Srinagar-Budgam Lok Sabha constituency and the Congress will support candidature of Dr Farooq Abdullah. In rest of the three Lok Sabha seats of Baramulla-Kupwara and Anantnag-Pulwama in Kashmir valley and Ladakh, the two parties will have friendly contest i.e. both will field their candidates on these seats.
The seat sharing agreement was announced at a joint press conference addressed by Dr Abdullah and Azad along with other NC and Congress leaders, who were present at the meeting.
The National Conference had already announced BR Kundal, former Chief Secretary of the State, as its candidate for Jammu-Poonch seat, who had yesterday obtained nomination form from the Returning Officer. However, the NC has now left Jammu seat for the Congress. On Sunday, Dr Abdullah had launched election campaign for Kundal by addressing a rally for him at Bahu Fort.
When approached, Kundal told the Excelsior that he will go by the party decision.
“I support the party decision and I will go by the party direction,” he said.
NC vice president Omar Abdullah though active on twitter during the day, made no mention of NC-Congress seat sharing agreement, the deal for which was struck in Jammu. Omar was in Srinagar today.
Political observers were of the view that National Conference should have made it at least 2:2 by taking Ladakh seat from the Congress. During initial talks with Congress high command in New Delhi, NC had offered only two seats to Congress while keeping four for it in the event of an alliance. During its two days Parliamentary Board meeting, the NC leaders from across the State had decided to contest all six Lok Sabha seat and opposed any kind of alliance with any party but left the final decision to Farooq Abdullah. The Congress rushed its senior leaders to Jammu immediately after Farooq conveyed his decision to the Congress high command on NC Parliamentary Board decision.
Sources said National Conference got just one seat of Srinagar in the seat sharing agreement, which the Congress had already decided not to contest to support Farooq even if there was no alliance between the two parties. Moreover, they said, Congress has negligible vote bank in Srinagar Lok Sabha seat, where party had no presence in the previous Legislative Assembly.
Meanwhile, Congress likely candidate from Udhampur-Doda seat, Vikramaditya Singh visited the residence of Dr Farooq Abdullah and conveyed his gratitude to the National Conference leadership for keeping the Parliamentary seat for his party. Raman Bhalla, who is front-runner in the Congress for Jammu-Poonch seat, also rang up Dr Abdullah and extended thanks to him for leaving the seat for the Congress despite having announced the candidature of BR Kundal.
Sources in the National Conference described the seat sharing agreement between National Conference and Congress as “tactical seat arrangement’’ on three seats of Baramulla, Anantnag and Ladakh, which was aimed at defeating the opponents and not as surrender of the NC as political circles were abuzz that NC had surrendered both seats of Jammu region to the Congress and, in return, took just one seat of Srinagar and that too where the Congress has negligible vote bank.
In 2014 Parliamentary election, the NC and Congress had contested three seats each in alliance. Jammu, Udhampur and Ladakh seats were contested by the Congress while all three seats of Kashmir valley including Srinagar, Baramulla and Anantnag had gone to National Conference. However, both the parties had drawn blank with BJP and PDP winning three seats each.
The NC had already announced its candidates for three seats of Kashmir including Dr Farooq Abdullah for Srinagar, Mohammad Akbar Lone for Baramulla and Justice (Retired) Hasnain Masoodi for Anantnag. It has to announce candidate for Ladakh seat only.
The Congress is yet to name its candidate for five seats including Jammu, Udhampur, Ladakh, Baramulla and Anantnag. The Congress was likely to name candidates in a day or so as the State unit has finalized Panel for the seats.
Party sources said the Central Election Committee of the Congress would clear names for Lok Sabha seats of J&K except Srinagar, most likely in its next meeting in New Delhi.
Meanwhile, addressing the press conference, Azad said, “Friendly contest means that we will not go hard against each other and at the same time will make a joint effort to defeat the opponents. Whether they (NC) win or we, it will make no difference because the (seats) will add to the national kitty.
“Had the two parties entered the fray separately in Jammu, Azad said, it would have benefited the BJP. “And in Kashmir, if we fought separately, it is difficult to transfer votes.”
Azad said: “We have some MLAs in Anantnag and Baramulla and (by friendly contest) we will be able to maintain our turf. Our fight will be a joint effort to defeat the opponent.”
“The alliance has been finalised in national interest and will strengthen the secular forces in Jammu and Kashmir as the State faces threat from Pakistan,” Azad said.
“Live and let live. This is the best decision taken in national interest. If either the Congress or National Conference wins, it is a win-win situation for both,” the Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha said.
Azad said the tie-up will ensure there is no division of secular votes and BJP is not benefited.
He said all Congress leaders will also campaign for Dr Abdullah on the Srinagar Parliamentary seat, which he currently represents.
Azad appealed to the people of Jammu to vote for strengthening secularism and isolating communalism. “A communal India cannot face any nation but secular India can fight any country in the world.”
Azad said they were not working for BJP. “We have an alliance with like-minded parties at five or six places; it (BJP) has alliance at over 40 places.”
On the Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s criticism of dynastic politics, Azad said, “The one who had no family what will he do?
Azad said the BJP Government is the most “corrupt and scandalous” in the entire world.
“I have said this in presence of Modi in the House. You are not allowing inquiry wherefrom the information will come to the fore,” he said
Replying to a question, Dr Abdullah took a dig at the BJP leaders for repeatedly leveling allegations of dynastic politics on them.
“If son of an Actor becomes an Actor, is it dynasty? If son of a Film Director, become a Director or son of a doctor becomes a doctor, is it because of dynasty? I’m son of Sheikh Abdullah. I’m a politician by birth. People vote for me, if they don’t vote, I will not be elected.
“They (the BJP leaders have nothing to say. It was Indira Gandhi, daughter of Jawahar Lal Nehru, who took the nation forward. We have Atom bomb because of her (Indira). She strengthened the country, gave lot of sacrifices for the country including his life. His son (Rajiv Gandhi) also sacrificed his life. Can we forget all this?”, Farooq asked.
Farooq appealed to the Congress to exhibit magnanimity and reach out to like-minded parties in other parts of the country to safeguard the secular character of the nation.
“We have to keep our nation secular. Try hard in other places and reach an understanding (with other parties). We have to make this nation stronger and keep it secular and equal for everyone,” Farooq said addressing Azad sitting with him.
Farooq said the country is faced with dangers from Pakistan and other neighbouring countries and the people living on the border in J&K are the worst sufferers of the animosity between India and Pakistan. “If there is peace between the two countries, the first beneficiary will be the people of the State,” he added.
The NC president said secular parties need to come together because communal forces only strengthen Pakistan, China and “our enemies of the nation and weaken the country from within”.

PDP names
Dar, Tak for
2 Jammu seats
The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) today finalized names of Abdul Qayoom Dar, Retired SP, Chairman Auqaf and Administrator Shahdara Sharief Rajouri and Firdous Tak, former MLC as the party candidates for Jammu-Poonch and Udhampur-Doda Parliamentary constituencies respectively.
A formal announcement of their names will be made after party’s Political Affairs Committee (PAC) meeting in Srinagar tomorrow.
The PDP leadership today asked Dar and Tak to complete formalities for filing nomination papers.
The PDP could announce candidates for all six seats after the PAC meeting tomorrow, party sources said.
Dar had lost the Legislative Council election by one vote to BJP’s Vikram Randhawa in 2017 biennial poll. Tak has just completed his four-year term in the Legislative Council.