Coalition at Crossroads

   

Rahul Gandhi and Omar Abdullah have been swearing by the relationship that the two political dynasties have had for generations in Jammu and Kashmir. While National Conference and Congress have fundamentally dominated J&K’s recent history, they discover their ‘distinct’ identities when the election bells begin to ring, Shah Abbas reports.

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If the prevailing situation in the coalition government in J&K state is allowed to continue, it is a matter of time before the National Conference (NC) which heads the government and Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) decide to part their ways. However both NC and PC would like to remain part of the government for a few more months, at least till the 2014 Parliamentary Elections. With the divorce being planned at local and central level as a matter of strategy, the leadership of the two parties could even decide on a convenient time.

“The Congress high command is presently thinking about such a coalition in J&K which can give a feeling of change to the people, especially the valleyites,” said a Delhi based Congress leader who recently met the Congress president Sonia Gandhi to discuss the 2014 Assembly Elections of Jammu and Kashmir.

Tanveer Sadiq, the recently appointed Political Secretary to the Chief Minister is of the opinion that it is too early to say anything about the future of the coalition. “As of now, the coalition between NC and Congress is going on. The working committee of National Conference will meet at an appropriate time and decide about the future course of action,” Sadiq told Kashmir Life.

The coming events have started casting their shadows. Sources revealed that the Congress has decided against having any pre-poll alliance with NC. Though the Congress High Command is yet to announce the decision formally, the state Congress leaders have joined the bandwagon seeking disassociation from National Conference.

“Congress is unlikely to have a pre-poll alliance with NC,” the Delhi based Congress leader told Kashmir Life. “The decision will be announced formally at the appropriate time but it is being taken at the highest level.” The Congress leader added that this should have no impact on the friendship between Rahul Gandhi and Omar Abdullah.

The leader who is not authorized to talk on state Congress affairs said Congress president Sonia Gandhi does not want any kind of pre-poll alliance that might repeat 1987 situation that saw rigging of elections in the state.

But this is nothing new to J&K. Congress party ruled J&K in the last tenure with PDP but the two parties contested the 2008 elections separately.

A general belief is that rigging of 1987 elections was one of the major factors that led to the rise of militancy a year later. Then, NC-led alliance was accused of rigging polls when the then Rajiv Gandhi-Farooq Abdullah coalition was pitted against the Muslim United Front (MUF). The contest was closely fought and led to the emergence of a new situation that spiralled out of Delhi’s control. MUF was a grand alliance of various Kashmir-based parties which, after the rise of militancy, became the separatist amalgam, Hurriyat Conference.

The in-principle decision has led state Congress leaders to go public with its plans. Prof Saif- ud- Din Soz, who was recently reappointed as the state Congress chief, says the party will emerge as single largest party in 2014 assembly polls and will govern the state. “If we fell short of numbers, we will form a coalition and the options are open,” Soz said. “We will not play a B-team but an equal partner.” In a statement that could add to the strained relations between Congress and NC, Soz even praised former Chief Minister Mufti Sayeed for his ‘healing touch’ policy.

 These developments go in direct conflict with NC’s scheme of things. Apparently harping on the friendship between Omar and Rahul, the party leaders went repeatedly public in past with suggestions that a pre-poll alliance was in the offing. Now, public posturing is gradually taking a delicate shift. All of a sudden, everybody in the NC is training guns at New Delhi.

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