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It’s official: Congress and National Conference won’t contest Assembly polls together

The decision has been taken in view of the sentiments of party workers, Cong leader Ghulam Nabi Azad said.

Written by Bashaarat Masood , Manoj C G | Jammu |
Updated: July 21, 2014 9:53:29 am
Reacting to Congress' announcement of going alone during Assembly polls, J&K Chief Minister Omar Abdullah accused it of distorting facts. (Source: PTI) Reacting to Congress’ announcement of going alone during Assembly polls, J&K Chief Minister Omar Abdullah accused it of distorting facts. (Source: PTI)

The uneasy coalition between the Congress and National Conference in Jammu and Kashmir finally ended on Sunday, with the Congress announcing it will go alone in the forthcoming Assembly elections.

The question now is whether the Congress — which was facing tremendous pressure from its rank and file to snap ties — will pull out its ministers from the Omar Abdullah ministry and will the Chief Minister step down.

Jammu and Kashmir Congress president Saifuddin Soz refused to give a concrete answer. “Let the government run if it can run. We are talking about elections, and government is different. If the government can run for a period of time, it will run. It is sure they will have their agenda and we will have ours. And, after a point of time, if issues crop up, they can either be discussed or we can mutually decide what to do,” Soz told The Indian Express.

The term of the current government is till January 5 next year.

Minutes after Congress top leaders Ghulam Nabi Azad, Ambika Soni and Soz announced in Jammu that the party will fight the elections alone, Omar said he had informed Congress president Sonia Gandhi about his party’s decision to snap ties as early as 10 days ago, underlining that the NC wanted to end the coalition and not the Congress.

“I met Mrs Gandhi 10 days ago & thanked her for all her support. I conveyed NC’s decision to fight the elections alone,” Omar said on Twitter. He said he explained the reasons to the Congress president for going alone “but also told her I wouldn’t be making a public announcement because I didn’t want to look opportunistic”.

“For it to be spun now as a Cong decision is wrong & a complete distortion of the facts, not surprising but incorrect nonetheless,” he added.

Omar’s political secretary Tanveer Sadiq expressed confidence that the government though would survive. “The government will continue. This coalition has done a wonderful job,” Sadiq said.

Sources in the Congress said the decision to part ways was taken at the instance of state leaders, who have been demanding this for long. “Congress workers were dead against going into elections with the NC, especially after the Lok Sabha election setback. What can we do?” a senior leader said.

Talking to the media in Jammu, Azad said: “The Congress has a wider nationalist agenda and we have to carry it forward. Many times, it couldn’t push it through in view of the compulsions of the coalition.” Azad and Soni were in Jammu on Sunday to attend a meeting to seek feedback from party workers on the reasons for the coalition’s Lok Sabha election defeat.

The Congress believes NC workers did not work for its candidates, nor voted for them. “There is much animosity at the ground level.
Votes were not transferred to each other, resulting in the debacle,” a senior leader said.

While Azad repeated the charge on Sunday, the NC too bears the same grudge. General secretary Ali Mohammad Sagar said: “The way the votes should have been transferred couldn’t be done. The Congress may have some complaints but we tried our best. When we analysed the poll figures, we didn’t get the Congress votes in Kashmir too.”

Soz said the Congress would contest from 84 seats in the Assembly polls, leaving three seats to its traditional associates — Hakim Muhammad Yasin of the Peoples Democratic Front, Ghulam Hassan Mir of the Democratic Party Nationalist (DPN) and the CPM’s Mohd Yousuf Tarigami.

For a long time, the Congress high command resisted pressure from the state leadership to part ways with the NC as vice-president Rahul Gandhi shared a good relationship with Omar.

The Congress also flirted with the idea of aligning with the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for a while. Azad and former Union minister Jairam Ramesh held separate meetings with PDP patron Mufti Mohammad Sayeed. But the PDP was not keen to tie up as it felt a hugely unpopular Congress would be an electoral baggage.

Soz didn’t completely rule out an alliance in the future. “The PDP may not go in for a pre-poll alliance. Let’s see how the situation emerges post elections,” he said.

The PDP called the NC-Congress split an “acknowledgement of failure” of the CM. “It is an acknowledgement of Omar Abdullah’s failure as a leader of the coalition,” party spokesperson Naeem Akhtar said. “He got unqualified support from the Centre. But he failed to deliver and now they are disillusioned.”

The NC-Congress coalition had been wobbly from the start and many Congress leaders resented the fact that Omar was given the chief ministership for the full tenure.

Lately, the Congress was unhappy over Omar taking credit for the populist measures announced after the Lok Sabha poll debacle, and recent Cabinet meetings in the state had been a strained affair.

Sources in the Congress said the party would now harp on issues of governance to position itself against the NC. The party has already identified loopholes in the implementation of the Food Security Act as one issue.

(With inputs from Bashaarat Masood in Srinagar)

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