‘Out of the three LS seats in Kashmir, Congress and NC may not be willing to give up on the Srinagar constituency’.
The Opposition alliance in Jammu and Kashmir, whose major partners are People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Congress and National Conference (NC), would find it difficult to form consensus on seat-sharing in both Lok Sabha and Assembly elections which may lead to parting of ways at least in Assembly elections, according to senior leaders.
There is speculation that out of the three Lok Sabha seats in Kashmir, Congress and NC might not be willing to give up on Srinagar constituency. And in Assembly elections NC would not want to cede its turf as they believe that they can perform extremely well in the Valley. Omar Abdullah in a recent interview to a YouTube channel pointed out the need for Congress to focus upon Jammu where it has suitable electoral ground and “if they perform well in Kashmir, they can take it as bonus”. He further added that the same is with NC which will consider Jammu’s wins as a bonus.
A top Congress leader, while describing the Congress’ political standing in the Kashmir Valley, which has 47 Assembly and 3 Lok Sabha seats, pointed out the pull the people of the valley have towards Congress due to Rahul Gandhi’s exhaustive Bharat Jodo Yatra. The leader said, “The party brass also is expecting more seat share and more electoral returns in the Valley which they believe will hurt the prospects of National Conference, thereby pushing the alliance partners away from each other.”
In LS elections, the pain point for both the parties seems the Srinagar constituency where Farooq Abdullah is the sitting Member Parliament. Congress candidate Tariq Hamid Karra (former PDP MP) defeated Abdullah in the 2014 general elections with a margin of around 42,000 votes. Moreover, in case of alliance, the Congress is viewing an opportunity to tap the greater electorate in Assembly elections as there would be absence of any solid opposition, thus propelling their former tally of 4 seats within the Valley. Senior leaders in the state suggest that they should get around 15 (out of 47) Assembly seats as it’s the rightful share; however, such a demand may pinch the NC’s way of imagining the Valley where it sees itself as the sole dominant party after the downfall of PDP and would want to pocket more than 40 seats. A top Congress leader said, “Congress deserves that share and therefore such a demand will not fit well with the NC. So, they may not want to have any alliance in Assembly elections. Even they wouldn’t want to have alliance in Lok Sabha elections. But let’s see what happens.”
There are also rumblings across the party line that Mehbooba Mufti wants to settle her daughter Iltija Mufti by fielding her from Anantnag Lok Sabha constituency. A person in the know said, “PDP has lost its grip everywhere in Kashmir. However, comparatively, Anantnag LS constituency in Kashmir is the only seat where they can draw some voters. Therefore, if the alliance happens, that seat would be the only one they would be seeking. Also, in that case, there would be no challenging opposition to them and they will win the seat.”
A former senior legislator in the state said, “There is no surety whether the NC will remain in the fold. There is no major binding for them to remain with the Opposition alliance. They can even choose to fight it alone. Even Omar Abdullah can break away from the Opposition and ally with the BJP. They might have promised him the CM position.”
An analyst in the state said, “There seems less probability that the NC will go with the BJP after seeing what happened to the PDP. The state party can do several manoeuvres to resist the pressure. At the same time, they can do several manoeuvres to eventually land themselves in the NDA fold, as there are charges against them and BJP would try to use them against the Abdullahs.”