NC, PDP to take on each other in Kashmir

Mehbooba, Omar trade blame
*Farooq not to contest LS polls

Excelsior Correspondent

SRINAGAR, Apr 3: The PDP and the National Conference — the two INDIA bloc partners in Jammu and Kashmir — will be taking on each other on the three Lok Sabha seats in the valley.
Mehbooba Mufti-led PDP accused National Conference (NC) vice president Omar Abdullah of leaving them “no option”.

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Abdullah, however, hit back saying the PDP was going back on the understanding reached between the constituents of People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) for the District Development Council (DDC) elections in 2020.
Mufti told reporters here that the NC has left her party with no other option other than to contest the election on the three Lok Sabha seats in Kashmir.
“They (NC) have left no option for us other than to field candidates and contest the elections,” Mufti said.
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The party’s Parliamentary board would take a final call on the candidates, she added.
While holding talks with the Congress on seat-sharing in J-K, the NC had made it clear that they will be contesting the three Valley seats as they had won these in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
The NC left two seats in Jammu for the Congress as part of the INDIA bloc’s seat-sharing agreement.
Mufti said the need of the hour for the political parties in Jammu and Kashmir was to remain united after the Centre revoked the erstwhile State’s special status in August 2019.
The former J-K Chief Minister, however, said the attitude of the NC leadership was disappointing and hurtful.
“When the INDI alliance’s meeting took place in Mumbai, I said there that since (NC president) Farooq Abdullah is our senior leader, he will take a decision (on seat-sharing) and will do justice. I had hoped he would keep the party interests aside,” she said.
But the NC took the decision to contest all the three seats in Kashmir unilaterally, she added.
Mufti said if the NC had approached her and consulted the PDP before announcing the decision, her party could have decided not to field candidates in the larger interests of Kashmir.
“But, the way Omar (Abdullah) announced the decision without taking us into confidence, and by saying that the PDP has no workers or support so they will not get a single seat, it hurt my workers and broke their hearts,” she added.
She was referring to Omar Abdullah’s March 8 press conference in which he announced that the NC would contest from all three seats in the valley and will not leave any for its INDIA bloc partner the PDP.
Abdullah, on his part, said he had not “made any remarks about her party and, therefore, I have nothing to say on this”. The PDP was going back on the understanding reached for the DDC polls where the parties having won the seats would field their candidates, he said.
“What can I say about this? It is their own will. How can I stop them? We announced candidates for the three seats of Kashmir based on their own formula,” the former chief minister of J-K said.
When the DDC elections took place, the NC had asked the PDP that seat-sharing should be done on the basis of the results of the 2019 Parliamentary elections but the latter did not accept that, Omar Abdullah said.
“They told us that the candidates will be decided on the basis of the 2014 assembly polls. The decision was made that whoever had won the assembly seat will contest from that seat. So, in this parliamentary poll, the same formula was applied. Wherefrom we had won, we decided to field candidates,” he added.
Abdullah said since there was no scope for seat sharing with the PDP in the parliamentary polls, “we would keep a scope for the Assembly elections”.
“But, now if Mehbooba Mufti has decided to contest on all seats, then perhaps she does not want an alliance for the assembly polls as well. In that case, I cannot say anything. We had kept the doors open, but if they are closing those doors, it is not our fault,” he added.
On DPAP founder Ghulam Nabi Azad entering the fray for Anantnag-Rajouri Lok Sabha seat, Abdullah said he was surprised.
“I am quite surprised that Azad has chosen to fight from Anantnag-Rajouri-Poonch. I would have thought that if he is keen to enter Parliament, he should have fought from his bastion, his strength in Chenab valley. I would have thought he would have fought the Udhampur seat.
“The fact that he is not fighting from Udhampur and that he is fighting from Anantnag-Rajouri-Poonch, clearly there is (something) more than meets the eye,” he said.
Omar Abdullah said he cannot say anything about the reason and under what pressure did Azad come to contest the Lok Sabha elections from Anantnag.
He said the NC has fielded the best and strongest candidate in Mian Altaf Ahmad.
“Whoever is contesting against him, we hope Altaf will win with a thumping majority,” he added.
Meanwhile, Farooq Abdullah would not contest the Lok Sabha polls owing to his heath, the party said on Wednesday.
The announcement was made by his son Omar Abdullah at a party function in Rawalpora on the outskirts of the city here.
“He (Farooq Abdullah) has taken permission from (party’s general secretary) (Ali Mohammad) Sagar and other party members to not contest the polls this time because of his health,” Omar Abdullah said.
He said it is now the party’s responsibility to field the best candidate from the constituency. He hoped that the voters would help the NC candidate succeed so that he/she becomes a voice of the people of Srinagar in Delhi.
Farooq Abdullah was elected to the Rajya Sabha in 2002 from Jammu and Kashmir and then re-elected in 2009. He resigned from the Rajya Sabha in May 2009 and won a seat in the Lok Sabha from Srinagar.
Abdullah joined the United Progressive Alliance Government as a Cabinet Minister of New and Renewable Energy.
Abdullah contested the Srinagar Lok Sabha seat again in the 2014 elections but was defeated by the People’s Democratic Party candidate Tariq Hameed Karra.
However, Karra resigned from Lok Sabha in 2017 leading to a by-election for the Srinagar Parliamentary seat which Abdullah won defeating the PDP candidate Nazir Ahmed Khan.
He won the polls again in 2019.