Is NC and Congress’ split before state assembly elections going to help PDP and BJP in Kashmir and Jammu respectively? Shah Abbas analyses how congress has retained its kingmaker’s status in J&K
The Chief Minister Omar Abdullah recently wished the Congress General Secretary, Rahul Gandhi on his 44th birth day. Rahul and Omar, though separately were abroad, and Omar according to sources met Rahul somewhere there to wish him prior to July 19. They talked about J&K politics especially the upcoming assembly elections. Sources said that Omar, strongly advocated a pre-poll alliance of ‘Hand’ and ‘Plough’ and Rahul advised him to meet Party chief, Sonia Gandhi for the purpose.
Chief Ministers father, Dr Farooq spent weeks together in Delhi to convince the Congress high Command for an alliance, but the father-son duo failed in their efforts despite using their “good relations” within the party and the day after a 44 kg cake was cut at 10 Janpath, in the absence of Rahul the Congress formally parted its ways from the National Conference (NC).
But the tweets of Omar are quite contrary to this theory wherein he claimed that National Conference (NC) had taken the decision of going alone for the assembly polls much before Congress announced it. Omar as usual used micro blogging website twitter to put his point.
“I met Gandhi 10 days ago (and) thanked her for all her support. I conveyed NC’s decision to fight the (coming) elections alone (sic),” Omar tweeted, adding, “I explained the reasons but also told her I wouldn’t be making a public announcement because I didn’t want it to look opportunistic (sic).” He also wrote, “For it to be spun now as a Cong decision is wrong & a complete distortion of the facts, not surprising but incorrect none the less (sic).”
Sources in New Delhi told Kashmir Life that Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was so keen to break the relation between its arch rival and the Indian National Congress that party’s patron Mufti Mohammad Syeed used his influence within Congress and finally succeeded. “Mufti Sahab had a long meeting with some senior Congress leaders in New Delhi a day before Ambika Soni and Ghulam Nabi Azad announced party’s decision in Jammu,” they said and added “Since last six months everything is going in PDP’s favour; NC-Cong breakup was the latest.”
The NC-Congress much trumpeted poll alliance in Jammu and Kashmir ended on July 20 when Congress officially announced that it would fight the upcoming Assembly polls in the state alone and the NC followed the Congress announcement.
If political pundits are to be believed, NC was keen to forge a pre-poll alliance with the Congress.
NC was in fact trying to close all doors for any PDP-Congress alliance, and create such a political situation where PDP had no choice except Bhartya Janta Party (BJP). “In this situation NC would make a hue and cry against its regional rival and accuse it of sharing anti-Kashmir agenda with the BJP,” Shawkat Parray, a political Science scholar said adding “NC has forgotten that its Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has practically learned politics as a Minister of State (MoS) in the former BJP led NDA government when NC was its ally.”
On the contrary, PDP was also working to keep NC and Congress apart at the time of election, and it succeeded. But to many analysts, it benefited Congress more than the PDP. “Had Congress formed a pre-poll alliance with the NC, it would have certainly closed all the options for itself. Now whether PDP claims to form the next government or NC, Congress can support any of the two,” A Srinagar based Columnist told Kashmir Life adding “Congress has in fact kept the status of a kingmaker in J&K intact with it.”
But Amitabh Mattoo, former VC University of Jammu, who keeps a tab of regional politics, believes that both NC and Congress are going to suffer because of the break-up. “With the Congress’ and NC’s decision to part ways, and fight the elections to the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly – on their own – it may – on surface – seem, tactically, the right decision which will benefit both parties. In reality, however, this may prove to be disastrous for both parties. It could also well prove to be the most polarised election in the state. My prediction is now not based on psychology or surveys, but personal knowledge and analysis,” read a facebook post of Mattoo.
In the given situation, it seems that PDP might have to tackle lesser rivalry during election times than NC and Congress. Analysts say that NC has to face PDP in the valley, BJP, Congress and the regional parties like NPP in Jammu while as Congress too has the same kind of situation to face. Its’ main ground is in the Jammu region where it has to face Modi’s mighty BJP, NC, NPP and even PDP in certain pockets. But PDP, whose main thrust is valley has to counter only NC which suffered a deep dent in the recent LS polls by the same PDP.
Congress and BJP are no players at all as far as the valley and many Muslim dominated areas of the state are concerned.
In fact, after parting ways with NC, Congress has started facing music from the opposite political camp of Jammu which alleges the party of “playing frauds”. Chief Patron of JKNPP Prof Bhim Singh described Congress declaration as another “fraud”.
“Congress has been playing frauds with the people right since 1951. It was Congress leadership which filed application before United Nations in 1948 and accepted so-called ceasefire to allow partition of Jammu region. It was Congress which imposed Kashmir’s corrupt and authoritarian rulers who are responsible for death, destruction, militancy and corruption in J&K. It was Congress which brought Sheikh Abdullah in 1973, and again Congress imposed Farooq Abdullah on the people by rigging 1987 elections. It was Congress which gave new lease of life to Farooq Abdullah led NC in 1996 and again in 2009,” Bhim Singh said. He added, “Now, when Congress has been taught a bitter lesson by the people in Lok Sabha polls it has realized that the people of J&K have decided to sink their common ship in the Jhelum River. Congress has thought of another fraud by leaving all ‘mud’ in NC’s basket and declaring to fight Assembly election alone.” Bhim alleged that Congress has been sharing all “fruits” and “loot” in the government with NC, and it has committed crimes against the people of J&K.
NC and Congress had entered into a post-poll alliance in 2008. Although the coalition government has almost completed its term of six years, the sailing for the two parties has not been smooth as second rung leaders from both the parties have indulged in public fights over many issues. The tension in the relationship between the NC and the Congress was evident ever since their rout in the last Lok Sabha elections. The regional National Conference’s credibility was badly damaged by the loss it suffered by a very new but emerging opposition PDP, and even its president Dr Farooq suffered his first ever political defeat. The Congress faced embarrassing defeat in Jammu and Ladakh regions.
NC and Congress contested the recent Lok Sabha polls together and were routed by the PDP and BJP in Kashmir and Jammu respectively. PDP and BJP won all the six seats in the state with PDP sweeping the valley and BJP Jammu and Ladakh. The said polls exposed the polarization within the three regions of the state.
After the formal split, BJP took pot-shots at both NC and Congress calling the break-up as “one dynasty dumping the other”.
“NC-Congress split is of dynasties. One dynasty realised other dynasty is a sinking ship so they broke away but people of J&K will punish both equally,” reads a tweet of BJP leader Sidharth Nath Singh.
Meanwhile, the BJP has started giving the Assembly election preparation in J&K a push. Its newly elected president, Amit Shah has asked the State leaders to, “thoroughly expose the wild minority appeasement policy and rampant mis-governance of Omar Abdullah”.
“Shah has asked the State BJP to cultivate the tribal people like Bakarwals & Gujjars in Kashmir, the Buddhists in Jammu apart from the Kashmiri Pandits,” sources said.
The party has also silently started working on the valley by opening new Hindu Yatra destinations like Kousar Nag in the South Kashmir district of Shopian. “By doing this BJP is trying to mobilise the Hindu vote bank of Jammu region and tries to convey that it has not forgotten its Hindutva agenda,” a lawyer in the district Court Shopian told Kashmir Life adding, “however, Kousar Nag is a simple water body even having a Muslim name ‘Kousar’, but the communal mentality is hell-bent on heading a Yatra which will have devastating implications both on the environmental and the political fronts.”
BJP is alleged of playing open religious politics ahead of the assembly polls in Maharashtra, Haryana, Jharkhand and Jammu & Kashmir later this year. Analysts believe that BJP wants to win the elections of the said assemblies hands down in order to maintain its winning splash. The party has already started making the slice to that end product with none other than its extremist president Amit Shah knitting the strategy.
Back to the NC-Congress breakup, according to NC Additional General Secretary, Mustafa Kamal, “They (Congress) betrayed Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah, they betrayed Farooq Abdullah and they have now betrayed Omar Abdullah.”But nobody can be certain at any time about political alliances that too in J&K, where coalitions have been forming and breaking since India gained its independence and K-issue was born. Who is unaware of the “political relations” of NC and Congress and who does not know about their sudden break ups? So one should not wonder if the ‘Hand’ and the ‘Plough’ again come together to plough the J&K after the election results are out!