THE alliance talks between the Congress and the National Conference for the Lok Sabha polls are stuck over their plans for the Assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir.
The two parties had contested the 2014 Lok Sabha elections together as well, and ended up with no seat. The BJP had won both the seats in the Jammu region and one in Ladakh, while the PDP had won all the three constituencies in Kashmir. . Click for more election news
In the Jammu region, both the parties have declared their candidates for the two seats of Jammu-Poonch and Udhampur-Doda.
For the Jammu-Poonch Lok Sabha seat, the National Conference wants to field B R Kundal. A retired chief secretary of the state and former minister, Kundal, who belongs to a Scheduled Caste, joined the NC recently after quitting the Congress. NC patron Farooq Abdullah attended at least two events with Kundal in Jammu city on Sunday, declaring him the party candidate.
The Jammu-Poonch constituency has 18 lakh voters, with Hindus and Muslims estimated in the ratio of 70:30. Of the Hindus, 24 per cent are estimated to be SCs. The NC calculates that it will already get the Muslim votes, as the community won’t go with the BJP, and could swing the seat if the SC votes come to it too.
Since 1967, when the Lok Sabha elections were held for the first time in the state, this constituency has elected the Congress eight times, the BJP thrice and the NC only once.
The Congress has staked claim, citing that its Madan Lal Sharma had won Jammu-Poonch in 2004 as well as 2009. However, the Congress is yet to announce its candidate for the constituency so far.
From the Udhampur-Doda constituency, the Congress intends to field Vikramditya Singh, the eldest son of veteran Congress leader Karan Singh. The seat has 14 lakh voters, and they are almost split equally between Hindus and Muslims. Since 1967, the seat has been won by the Congress nine times and the BJP four times.
NC sources said that at a recent meeting in Delhi, they had conveyed to Congress leaders that the party could leave Udhampur-Doda seat only if the leader of the opposition in the Rajya Sabha and local Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad contests from there.
However, the Congress feels Singh has a better chance of getting the Hindu vote. They have precedence on their side, with Karan Singh having won from the seat four times.
Should the NC insist on Jammu-Poonch, the Congress would demand Udhampur-Doda, Anantnag and Ladakh seats as its share in their alliance kitty. Apart from Jammu-Poonch, the NC would then get Srinagar and Baramulla in Kashmir.
Both the NC and Congress also fancy their chances in the Jammu seats due to the presence of former BJP minister Choudhary Lal Singh in the race as an Independent from Udhampur-Doda and Rajiv Chuni, a leader of refugees from Pakistan Occupied Kashmir, from Jammu-Poonch. Both Lal Singh and Chuni, sources in both the parties say, are likely to cut into BJP votes.
In their choice for the Lok Sabha seats, the Congress and NC are hedging their bets for the Assembly elections. Both know they need to consolidate their support bases in Jammu for any shot at power in the polls likely to be held after the Lok Sabha elections — if the NC hopes rallying the SCs behind it will do the trick, the Congress is going for Hindu consolidation.