Rahul says Cong ready for alliance for both LS, Assembly polls in J&K

State leaders asked to explore possibilities
Cong eyes NC, PDP, other smaller groups

Sanjeev Pargal

JAMMU, Feb 9: In a major political development, All India Congress (I) Committee president, Rahul Gandhi has favoured alliance for both Lok Sabha and Assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir and called upon two top leaders of the State unit to hold negotiations with the “like minded parties” and then report to him for firming up the tie-up.
Rahul was reported to have said this at a meeting of the Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) chiefs and Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leaders of all States in New Delhi today. PCC president GA Mir and former CLP leader Rigzin Jora attended the meeting from Jammu and Kashmir.
Insiders in the Congress told the Excelsior that Rahul was in favour of Congress entering into electoral alliances, wherever possible, so that “like minded” and “secular” parties collectively take on the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the Lok Sabha elections, which were scheduled to be held in April-May and Assembly elections, which were due in Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Jammu and Kashmir and two North Eastern States.
In Jammu and Kashmir, sources said, Rahul Gandhi indicated that the Congress should be open to alliance with National Conference and People’s Democratic Party (PDP) without compromising with its seat base. However, first preference of the Congress remained the National Conference with which it had tie-up in 2014 Lok Sabha elections also and the two parties had successfully run the coalition Government in the State for six years from 2008 to 2014 under the Chief Ministership of Omar Abdullah.
“Rahul Gandhi has asked PCC chief GA Mir and former CLP leader Rigzin Jora to explore possibilities of the alliance in Jammu and Kashmir for both Lok Sabha as well as Assembly elections and then report back to him for further talks,” sources said, adding besides National Conference and PDP, the Congress could also hold talks with the smaller parties for seat sharing to take on the BJP.
At the same time, sources said, Rahul Gandhi asked the J&K party leaders to be in state of preparedness for both Lok Sabha and Assembly elections if the alliance didn’t mature.
The BJP has already made it clear that it will go alone in both Lok Sabha and Assembly elections with a view to win majority in the Assembly and have its own Chief Minister in the State for the first time.
In 2014, Congress and National Conference, which were sharing power in the State then, had alliance in Lok Sabha elections and contested three seats each. While Congress had fielded candidates in Jammu-Poonch, Udhampur-Doda and Ladakh seats, the National Conference had contested all three seats of Kashmir. The alliance had lost all six seats with BJP winning three seats of Jammu, Udhampur and Ladakh and the PDP all three seats of Kashmir valley.
The Congress was also open to alliance for the Assembly elections in the State as and when they are held, sources pointed out quoting Rahul Gandhi. They said the decision to go for alliance in the State was aimed at reviving the Congress party, which had suffered major reverses in 2014 Lok Sabha and Assembly elections in the State.
In Lok Sabha polls, the Congress had drawn blank while in the Assembly, its tally had drastically come down to just 12 while as that of the BJP had gone up from 11 in 2008 to 25 in 2014.
“The Congress wants to revive itself in the State and, for the purpose, it was not averse to the alliance,” sources said.
The Congress had alliance with the PDP in 2002 during which the two parties remained in power in the State for five and half years with Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and Ghulam Nabi Azad as rotational Chief Ministers. However, in 2008, the Congress entered into alliance with National Conference and the two parties were in power for full six years term with National Conference leader Omar Abdullah being the Chief Minister for full term.
Sources said Rahul Gandhi also reviewed the performance of the State unit of the party and discusses issues for Lok Sabha and Assembly polls. However, there was no immediate plan of Rahul Gandhi to visit Jammu and Kashmir.
Agencies add from New Delhi: Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Saturday met the PCC chiefs of various States and CLP leaders to review preparations for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections and work out the strategy for the polls.
The focus of discussions at the meeting, held at 15 Gurudwara Rakab Ganj Road, was speeding up of the process of candidate selection for the Lok Sabha elections, working towards building up alliances and strengthening the party organization in various States in the run up to the Lok Sabha polls, sources said.
In a post on social media, the Congress president said, ”today I met with our CLP Leaders and PCC chiefs from all over India to review our election preparedness and strategy in each State. We discussed a wide range of issues related to the upcoming elections. I thank all those who came to Delhi to attend this meeting.”
Saturday’s meeting drew up Congress’ campaign plan for the Lok Sabha elections.
At the meeting, stress was laid on strengthening the party organizations in their respective states.
They were asked to work towards building up alliances with potential partners in various States.
The leaders were also asked to speed up the process of selection of candidates for the Lok Sabha elections.
The meeting, attended by all the Chief Ministers of the Congress ruled States, comes two days after a meeting of the AICC general secretaries and State Incharge, held at 24, Akbar Road to review the preparations for the general elections.
Thursday’s meeting was also attended by the AICC general secretary for Uttar Pradesh East Priyanka Gandhi Vadra.
It was Priyanka’s first official meeting after she assumed charge as AICC general secretary.
All the general secretaries and State leaders have been told to complete selection of candidates by the end of this month.