Fresh attempts underway to stitch a tie-up between PC, AP

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz. Updated: 4/7/2024 12:58:41 AM Front Page

Azad wants two valley-based parties’ support in South Kashmir

Srinagar: With the first notification for the Lok Sabha elections in Kashmir being issued on Friday, 12 April, fresh attempts are in progress to cobble an alliance of three regional parties in the valley.
In the current polarisation, a coalition of the former ruling parties—Farooq Abdullah’s National Conference (NC), Mehbooba Mufti’s Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the Indian National Congress—is seen to be contested by Sajad Lone’s Peoples Conference (PC), Altaf Bukhari’s Apni Party (AP) and Ghulam Nabi Azad’s Democratic Progressive Azad Party (DPAP).
The BJP and the three junior parties snide the combo of the former ruling parties as ‘dynasts’ but it remains unclear whether the ruling party at the Centre would field her own candidates on the three Valley seats or support a potential alliance against the INDIA bloc.
In a significant development early this week, the PDP President and former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti has announced that her party would be contesting from all the three seats in Kashmir, However, she has not made any announcement with regard to nomination of any candidates. Her party insiders insist that none other than Ms Mufti herself would be the PDP’s candidate from South Kashmir.
As of now, neither of the two national level parties—Congress and BJP—has nominated any candidate for the three Kashmir seats.
Among the regional parties, NC has declared its senior leader and former Minister Mian Altaf Ahmad as its candidate in South Kashmir. DPAP has nominated its President and former Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad from the same constituency. AP has declared PDP’s ex-MLC Zaffar Iqbal Manhas as its candidate.
While no political party has made any announcement about the Central Kashmir seat, PC was the first to have declared its president and former President Sajad Lone as its candidate in North Kashmir. Besides, Awami Ittehad Party (AIP) has declared its President and former MLA Engineer Rashid as a candidate from the same constituency. All other parties are still tight-lipped about this constituency.
According to well-placed political sources, former Deputy Chief Minister Muzaffar Hussain Baig, who enjoys the support of a Pahari vote-bank, was seen as the anti-NC, anti-PDP combo’s unanimous candidate but the game changed when Lone was nominated as a candidate by his party.
Bukhari is reportedly under tremendous pressure from his cadre which wants the AP to field its own candidate in North Kashmir. Former Minister and Congress MLA from Bandipora, Usman Majid, is said to be a strong contender for the ticket as he reportedly enjoys the support for five important leaders in the AP. Given this inner conflict, an alliance is apparently unlikely but negotiations are underway to iron out all differences.
According to sources, there was a possibility of “give-and-take” between the PC and the AP on the two seats in Kashmir. In case the AP decides to support Lone in North Kashmir, PC is likely to support AP’s potential contender, former PDP Minister Mohammad Ashraf Mir, in Central Kashmir.
Azad, according to sources, would be contesting from South Kashmir only if assured of a support from the AP and the PC which have a lesser visibility in 14 of the 18 segments in this constituency. Former PDP Minister and two-time MLA from Darhal Rajouri, Choudhary Zulfikar is a prominent Gujjar face in the AP even as the AP candidate Manhas is a Kashmiri Pahari.
However, much depends on the BJP’s decision of contesting from here directly or indirectly as the party is heavily banking on the 4 lakh strong Pahari vote-bank which is expected to cast a lion’s share of vote in favour of the BJP’s nominee.
The BJP government at the Centre has not only fulfilled the Paharis’ 30-year-long demand of granting them the Scheduled Tribe (ST) status but also, for the first time, reserved 9 of the 90 seats for the STs in the J&K Legislative Assembly.
While the group’s crisis managers have enough time to take a final call about Central and North Kashmir, they are expected to deal with the first challenge in South Kashmir where the process of the election would start next Friday.

Updated On 4/7/2024 1:00:37 AM

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