The Congress is a member of the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) – an alliance of mainstream political parties in J&K fighting to restore special status – and will contest district-level elections as part of the group, National Conference chief Farooq Abdullah said Sunday.
Mr Abdullah, who is also the PAGD’s President, stressed: “We are fighting the elections together.”
“Where have they separated? There should be no misconception. The Congress is part of the alliance and we are fighting the DDC (district development council) elections together,” he said.
Mr Abdullah’s comment came a day after the Congress said it would field candidates of its own for the DDC election, which will take place between November 28 and December 22.
Asked to respond, he said: “When you heard this… yesterday was different and today Mir sahib (J&K Congress chief GA Mir) came to meet me and said we are fighting the election together.”
“They are together this time. National Conference, Congress, PDP. People’s Conference and the rest. The situation is such that they should be together and seen in public to be together,” Congress leader Saifuddin Soz said, appearing to confirm his party coming on board with the grouping.
Speculation the Congress would stay away from the PAGD heightened after it missed scheduled meetings. Also, late last month GA Mir appeared to play down talk of the Congress joining; he said the decision would be taken by the party’s central leadership in Delhi.
However, Mr Mir also explained he had missed the meetings because of ill-health and scheduling conflicts. He said he had been unwell when the first meeting (on October 15) had been called and was not in Srinagar at the time of the second (on October 24).
Sources said the Congress sought distance from the J&K grouping until after voting for the Bihar election – where Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP had made Article 370 a poll issue.
Now that voting is over (the third and final phase finished Saturday) and the PAGD has announced its participation local elections this month, the Congress has joined the bandwagon.
The PAGD – a grouping of seven parties including Farooq Abdullah’s National Conference and Mehbooba Mufti’s PDP, is viewed as a major political development after the central government withdrew special status in August last year. The alliance has said their aim is to prevent the BJP from capturing the political landscape in J&K.
“This space is too sacred to be left for invaders. This is the most sacred space in democracy. We will not allow it to marauded by invaders,” Sajjad Lone of the J&K People’s Alliance said.