Under attack, the Congress said on Tuesday that it was not part of the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD). State Congress president Ghulam Ahmad Mir, however, said they had seat-sharing arrangements “at the district level” with many parties, including the NC and PDP, which are part of the PAGD, for the District Development Council (DDC) elections.
Meanwhile, the Congress remained ambivalent on the demand to restore Article 370. Home Minister Amit Shah’s remarks on Tuesday are being seen as an attempt to push the Congress to the wall and force it to take a clear stand on the issue.
“The Congress is not part of the Gupkar Alliance or the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration,” Congress communication department head Randeep Surjewala said in a statement.
Speaking to The Indian Express, he said the Congress was not contesting the DDC elections in alliance with the PAGD. “There is no electoral understanding with the Gupkar alliance… we will fight on our own,” he said.
But Mir said the Congress had an “alliance at the district level” with different parties. “Our alliance is not with Gupkar. Our alliance is at the district level, and it is with parties which have influence there. Different parties have influence in different districts… It is being done at a district level by our district leaders,” he said.
“In different districts, we have seat-sharing arrangements with different local, regional and smaller parties which have influence in those districts. It is not limited to the NC or PDP. There are one-and-a-half dozen parties in the state. Whether they are in Kashmir or Jammu, Kashmir-centric or Jammu-centric, Congress is everywhere,” he said.
But Mir also emphasised that the Congress was not part of the PAGD. “We have never participated in any of the PAGD meetings, then how can we be part of the alliance. We are in deliberations for some seats, based on winnability. There are seats where their candidates seem stronger, so we can support them,” he said.
Last week, the Congress had joined seat-sharing deliberations with the PAGD. While the PAGD’s first list of 17 candidates did not include the Congress, the second list of 27, announced on November 15, had three Congress candidates.
The list for the third phase (16 seats), announced on Tuesday, also did not have any Congress candidate. Sources said the Congress had sought the Hiller (Anantnag) seat, but that eventually went to the NC.
The opinion within the Congress over its dalliance with the PAGD has been sharply divided ever since its local leadership joined hands with the NC, PDP and People’s Conference and became party to the joint statement issued in August this year which said they would strive for restoration of Articles 370 and 35A.
The unease deepened after NC leader Farooq Abdullah was reported as saying that the Chinese aggression along the LAC was because of abrogation of Article 370 and hoped that the Chinese pressure would result in restoration of Article 370 and 35 A; and PDP president Mehbooba Mufti said she would raise the Tricolour only when the J&K flag was restored.
Asked about their statements, Surjewala said: “The Congress stands against anybody who seeks interference into our territory by any foreign power. We also are against anybody who disrespects our national flag.”
The opinion within the party on abrogation of Article 370 too is divided. While the Congress had opposed the decision in Parliament, the Congress Working Committee had later nuanced its position, sensing the public mood and factoring in the views of several leaders, most of them young, who had then publicly backed the Centre’s decision.
At its meeting on August 6, 2019, the CWC had attacked the government over the manner in which Article 370 was abrogated and J&K was split, but shied away from demanding restoration of Article 370.
“The CWC deplores the unilateral, brazen and totally undemocratic manner in which Article 370 of the Constitution was abrogated and the State of Jammu and Kashmir was dismembered by misinterpreting the provisions of the Constitution. Every principle of Constitutional law, States’ rights, Parliamentary procedure and democratic governance was violated,” it had said.
The CWC had argued that Article 370 is the Constitutional recognition of the terms of the Instrument of Accession between the State of Jammu & Kashmir and India, and it deserved to be honoured until it was amended, after consultation with all sections of the people, and strictly in accordance with the Constitution.
Responding to a question, Surjewala said the party’s position on Article 370 had been made clear by the CWC. “I am not authorised to add or subtract from the CWC statement. The CWC resolution is the party’s stand,” he said.
In a counter attack, Surjewala asked Shah to explain why the BJP had formed a coalition government with the PDP. He said Shah and the Modi government needed new lessons in patriotism, and argued that the RSS had not hoisted the Tricolour at its headquarters for 52 years.
Last month, while welcoming the “coming together of mainstream regional parties of J&K to fight a constitutional battle to restore the rights of the people of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh”, senior party leader P Chidambaram had tweeted that “the Congress also resolutely stands for restoration of the status and rights of the people of J&K. The arbitrary and unconstitutional decisions of the Modi government of August 5, 2019 must be rescinded.”
Party sources had then termed it as his personal opinion.
— With inputs from Naveed Iqbal, Srinagar
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