Out of Touch?

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As ground realities indicate a sort of strong anti-incumbency, state’s principal opposition seems not so confident to cash it. In run up to the Lok Sabha and state elections in 2014, probably PDP alliance crisis is taking a huge toll of the party. Is an ally really important, argues Shah Abbas

Show of Strength: Chief Minister Omar Abdullah with senior party leaders at a function held recently to celebrate NC founder’s birth anniversary. Pic: Bilal Bahadur

Show of Strength: Chief Minister Omar Abdullah with senior party leaders at a function held recently to celebrate NC founder’s birth anniversary.
Pic: Bilal Bahadur

When state’s principal opposition with 21 lawmakers in the assembly fails to exhibit its existence in run-up to an election, it indicates everything is not hanky-dory.

Suddenly, People’s Democratic Party (PDP) has grown dormant, at least in the valley. People think it could not even register a protest against the power crises, currently the main mess. Now people are out on roads almost on daily basis against massive load shedding.

Party’s statements directed towards New Delhi and Islamabad to, “promote peace” are being ridiculed. “People need basic requirements to live, and they need someone to plead for their demands of better power supply and price control,” Raashid Maqbool, a Srinagar based Journalist told Kashmir Life, adding “The unionist parties like PDP have a misconception that they can win the heart and minds of the voters only by beating the drum of K-issue, even though they know they are not meant for settling the international issues like Kashmir.”

But party spokesperson Naeem Akhtar says the claim is misplaced because his party brought the power crises issue into public domain. “Till 2002 it was never an issue, people used to live in darkness but PDP not only lit the bulbs but also made it a point that better power supply is a people’s right,” Akhtar said.

He disagrees with the argument that PDP has left Kashmir alone and it has failed to deliver as an effective opposition. “Valley is our base, we just concluded a long visit from Keran to Qazigund and now our President and Patron are busy in reaching to the people of Jammu division,” Akhtar added.

PDP as the main opposition party did not react against the Chief Minister’s statement about jobs which he made on December 15. Omar Abdullah had raised his hands and declared the government could not fill up the available vacancies as it has no money in the State exchequer to meet the wage bill. Akhter says not every statement of everybody requires reaction. “People understand things,” he asserted. Many think, PDP skipped reacting to Omar’s statement on ‘third gender’ simply because Congress High Command came in support of scrapping the law that supreme court upheld.

At a time when parliament elections are not far away, even the smallest political party remains in search of issues to corner the government and gain ground in its favour. Surprisingly PDP acts against the set norms and ways. Is it overconfidence?

“We can’t issue any certificates to ourselves, it is for people to judge and decide about our stand and performance,” a confident Akhtar said.

But the party insiders tell a different story. They say its legislatures are not in a mood to annoy anybody “not even an officer of any department.” They do not want to become targets in state’s development politics, they say.

“We are not shying away from the issues people are facing, in fact the existing situation is not permitting us to think much about such kind of things,” a PDP lawmaker said on the condition of anonymity. “For every political party, making the government is the target. Right now, the thoughts about future alliance does take a bit of time but that not need ignoring people or the issues they are confronted with.”

PDP patron addressing a public meeting in Jammu recently.

PDP patron addressing a public meeting in Jammu recently.

Party insiders do admit that PDP leadership is badly disturbed by the ‘wait and watch’ policy of Congress about any future alliances in the state. The Congress has not officially come out with its stand on the issue but National Conference leaders are meeting Congress top brass very frequently which disturbs the PDP.

Sources told Kashmir Life that a top PDP leader very recently met former state Chief Minister and incumbent union health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, who informed the person that Congress has surely not decided about the future alliance so far in the state. This has increased PDP’s anxiety manifolds.

In contrast, NC has very seriously started a campaign to convince Congress high command that NC-Congress alliance is in favour of both the parties. NC has hired the services of two Congress men, each from Kashmir and Jammu. On the contrary, PDP is still in search of a mediator who could at least reach the Congress high command and inform it about the party’s stand.

Much to the worry of PDP, the state Chief Minister, Omar Abdullah last week himself met UPA chairperson, Sonia Gandhi and later issued a statement saying he has categorically told Sonia that NC will not break its alliance with UPA.

But this worry has not stopped the party from holding public meetings in Jammu region. Barely a day passes when PDP leaders do not organize any program in the Jammu region. “To me PDP is overconfident about its support base in the valley so it has started campaigning in Jammu,” correspondent of a Jammu based daily told this reporter.

The two local parties, NC and PDP are issueless so far even the election year is about to start as “self rule” and “Autonomy” lack any takers this time. “National Conference is ruling the state since decades together and it has miserably failed to restore its autonomy, PDP on the other hand can’t vow the voters in the name of “self rule” this time so both of them must address the day to day issues and problems of the masses if they want to reach the throne,” opines a political science scholar in Kashmir University while talking to Kashmir Life. PDP was the first party that had a youth policy in place. Now the situation is the party is not in a position to create its youth wing. This is the situation as the new generations of sons took over the youth NC, very recently, formally.

To many commentators some leaders in the ruling NC have left very little space for PDP to act as an opposition. NC leaders hardly miss any opportunity to oppose its coalition partner, Congress. And if any anti-NC statement comes from Mufti Mohammad Sayeed or Mehbooba Mufti, it is being reacted sharply by not less than six frontline leaders of NC apart from its spokesperson.

“It appears that the people in PDP live and act for themselves only while as NC leader’s first priority is their party, or may be it appears because they are in power,” a political commentator wishing anonymity said.

This is the situation faced by PDP at a time when Lok Sabha elections are just three months away, a sure dummy run for the legislative assembly contest scheduled later in next the year.

At present, the NC has three members in the Lok Sabha representing Srinagar, Islamabad and Baramulla constituencies.

The Congress has two, representing Jammu and Udhampur seats, while the lone seat from the Ladakh region was represented by an Independent candidate, who however resigned earlier this year after he was elected to the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council in Kargil.

Since the NC has little chances of winning either the Jammu or the Udhampur Lok Sabha seat on its own, it would have not have much problems supporting the Congress candidates for these two Lok Sabha seats in 2014.

Both PDP and NC have nominated their candidates for Srinagar, Islamabad and Baramulla leaving Tariq Hameed Karra-Dr Farooq Abdullah and Mehboob Beigh-Mehbooba Mufti face to face in the north and south of Valley.

The real issue for any NC-Congress 2014 electoral alliance is the sharing of the state assembly seats.

In the 87-member assembly, the NC has 28 members and the Congress 17. Out of these, the latter has just three members from the Valley which has 46 assembly constituencies.

Out of 37 assembly seats from the Jammu region, the NC has just six members. The Congress has 13 members from the Jammu region at present. Ladakh region has four assembly constituencies out of which the NC has three members while the fourth seat is represented by a Congress candidate.

Traditionally, the Valley has been seen as the political stronghold of the NC, but now it faces serious challenges there from its regional arch rival, PDP, which has 21 seats in the state assembly.

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