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Thursday, March 04, 2021

First crack in Gupkar alliance: Sajad Lone exits

Lone, who was the PAGD spokesperson, conveyed the decision in a letter to Farooq Abdullah, president of the alliance.

Written by Bashaarat Masood | Srinagar |
Updated: January 20, 2021 2:07:31 am
Jammu and Kashmir People’s Conference Chairman Sajad Gani Lone. (Express photo)

IN THE first crack in the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD), the People’s Conference led by Sajad Lone pulled out of the alliance on Tuesday, citing the fielding of proxy candidates in the District Development Council (DDC) polls as a reason.

Lone, who was the PAGD spokesperson, conveyed the decision in a letter to Farooq Abdullah, president of the alliance.

“It is difficult for us to stay on and pretend as if nothing has happened. There has been a breach of trust between partners, which we believe is beyond remedy. The majoritarian view in our party is that we should pull out of the alliance in an amicable manner rather than waiting for things to get messier… I am confirming that we will no longer be a part of the PAGD,” Lone said in his letter.

He, however, said his party was not “divorcing” from the objectives of the PAGD. “We will continue to adhere to the objectives that we set out when this alliance was made. And the PAGD leadership should be assured that we will extend support on all issues which fall within the ambit of stated objectives,” he said. “We have issued clear instructions to all party leaders not to issue any statements against the PAGD or its leaders”.

There was disquiet within the People’s Conference over its continuation in the PAGD, and senior party leader Imran Raza Ansari had made his concerns public. Party insiders said Ansari was in touch with several political leaders outside J&K too. They said that while Ansari played a key role in the party’s decision to pull out of the PAGD, it was a unanimous decision taken by the top leadership including Lone.


Move to affect chance to control DDCs

SINCE DAY 1, the PAGD was a fragile alliance. With the People's Conference pulling out, the alliance will lose its chance to control the District Development Councils in the two North Kashmir districts of Baramulla and Kupwara, where Sajad Lone’s party has a substantial presence.

In his letter to Abdullah, Lone cited the fielding of proxy candidates as a reason for parting ways. “I am writing to you in reference to the recently held DDC elections and a spate of statements issued by leaders belonging to our party. The recurring theme of the statements was the fielding of proxy candidates by constituent parties against the officially mandated candidates of the PAGD,” he said. “We convened a meeting of our leaders… The predominant feeling in the meeting was that the PAGD sentiment at the top was not emulated on the ground,” he said.

He said the alliance partners were “silent bystanders” and even “compounded the problems by fielding proxy candidates”. Lone said that while the alliance demanded sacrifice, no party was ready to cede space.

“The DDC elections per se may not matter institutionally. But these elections were distinctive by virtue of the timing. Firstly, the context of these DDC elections was politically very important. It was the first election post-August 5. And secondly, it was a combined show of strength of a majority of the J&K political mainstream. It was less of an election and more of an opportunity to send a strong unanimous political message,” he said in the letter.

“This alliance needed sacrifice. Every party had to sacrifice on the ground in terms of giving space to fellow allies. No party is willing to cede space, no party is willing to sacrifice. We fought against each other in Kashmir province, not against the perpetrators of August 5. And those who perpetrated August 5 and their minions are now vocally gleeful,” he said.

Lone said that while the PAGD partners had “unambiguously won” the maximum number of seats, the statistics on the number of votes polled against the alliance could not be hidden. “Apart from the number of seats that the PAGD won, other important statistical variable in the context of August 5 is the number of votes polled against the PAGD. We believe that the votes polled against the PAGD are majorly the votes cast by proxies of PAGD constituent parties against official PAGD candidates. And the net outcome of selectively voting for and against PAGD is a very poor vote share,” he said. “This is certainly not the vote share that people of J&K deserved post-August 5”. The PAGD, an alliance of several mainstream political parties including rivals National Conference and Peoples Democratic Party, was formed in October last year to push for restoration of J&K’s special status.

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