When asked about Abdullah’s comments before the media that the Congress would fight the civic polls in alliance with the PAGD, the All India Congress Committee in-charge of J&K Rajni Patil said, “I don’t know why Farooq Abdullah is making such statements. The Congress party has not authorised Farooq Abdullah to speak on behalf of our party and our stand in the J&K DDC polls.”
The comments came two days after the Congress had made a solo announcement about the party contesting the local polls. While the PAGD and some Congress leaders from the Valley want the party to contest the polls as part of the alliance, the Jammu base of the Congress is wary of being seen as part of a grouping which is demanding restoration of Article 370 and whose vice president Mehbooba Mufti has said she won’t hoist the national flag until the flag of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir is restored.
Patil, who was in Jammu to hold meetings with local Congress leaders, further said, “The Congress party, on its own, last Saturday announced the decision to contest the assembly election after internal discussions among our colleagues. Similarly, Congress leaders in Jammu and Kashmir and the high command will decide about our candidates and other election strategies. Let me also point out that after attending one meeting of the Gupkar group of parties, the Congress representatives have not attended any of their subsequent meetings.”
J&K Congress leader Saifuddin Soz, who was quoted by TV channels as saying the Congress and PAGD could contest together, said that was his personal view. “The Congress has rightly decided to contest the DDC polls. Since these are tough times, I personally felt the mainstream parties of the Valley could fight the elections together. But, the Congress stand will be taken by our leadership and I am not authorised to speak on behalf of the party leadership,” he said.
While announcing that the Congress will contest J&K civic polls “on its own”, Pradesh Congress Committee chief Ghulam Ahmed Mir had said the party’s district units would decide “on adjustments on a candidate-to-candidate basis” in order to “avoid division of votes to the advantage of the communal parties”.
Party members said the Congress was not surprised by the PAGD deciding to contest the DDC polls because otherwise an assorted group of “third front parties” would have encroached the NC and PDP controlled electoral pitch of the Valley to gain control of the DDCs, thus cementing their position ahead of the next assembly election. The sudden announcement of DDC polls is also being seen as the Centre’s way of tactically mounting pressure on the local parties to fall in line with electoral politics.