Kashmir: Mehbooba, Omar trade barbs as INDIA bloc picks NC over PDP

Mufti told reporters here that the NC has left her party with no other option other than to contest the election on the three Lok Sabha seats in Kashmir

Srinagar: The National Conference (NC) and the Congress have finalised their seat-sharing agreement in Jammu and Kashmir for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, leaving the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) out of the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (I.N.D.I.A) bloc in the union territory.

The NC and PDP will be taking on each other in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections in Jammu and Kashmir.

Mehbooba Mufti-led PDP accused National Conference (NC) vice-president Omar Abdullah of leaving them “no option.” Abdullah, however, hit back saying the PDP was going back on the understanding reached between the constituents of the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) for the District Development Council (DDC) elections in 2020.

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Mufti told reporters here that the NC has left her party with no other option other than to contest the election on the three Lok Sabha seats in Kashmir. “They (NC) have left no option for us other than to field candidates and contest the elections,” Mufti said.

The party’s parliamentary board would take a final call on the candidates, she added.

While holding talks with the Congress on seat-sharing in J&K, the NC had made it clear that they will be contesting the three valley seats as they had won these in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

The NC left two seats in Jammu for the Congress as part of the INDIA bloc’s seat-sharing agreement.

Mufti said the need of the hour for the political parties in Jammu and Kashmir was to remain united after the Centre revoked the erstwhile state’s special status in August 2019.

“Youth are in jails, we cannot raise our voices, even the family members of employees cannot say anything. There is an atmosphere of oppression here. So, in such an atmosphere, we must stand united,” she said.

The former J&K chief minister, however, said the attitude of the NC leadership was disappointing and hurtful.

“When the INDI alliance’s meeting took place in Mumbai, I said there that since (NC president) Farooq Abdullah is our senior leader, he will take a decision (on seat-sharing) and will do justice. I had hoped he would keep the party interests aside,” she said.

But the NC decided to contest all the three seats in Kashmir unilaterally, she added.

Mufti said if the NC had approached her and consulted the PDP before announcing the decision, her party could have decided not to field candidates in the larger interests of Kashmir.

“But, the way Omar (Abdullah) announced the decision without taking us into confidence, and by saying that the PDP has no workers or support so they will not get a single seat, it hurt my workers and broke their hearts,” she added.

She was referring to Omar Abdullah’s March 8 press conference in which he announced that the NC would contest from all three seats in the valley and would not leave any for its INDIA bloc partner the PDP.

Abdullah, on his part, said he had not “made any remarks about her party and, therefore, I have nothing to say on this.” The PDP was going back on the understanding reached for the DDC polls where the parties having won the seats would field their candidates, he said.

“What can I say about this? It is their own will. How can I stop them? We announced candidates for the three seats of Kashmir based on their formula,” the former chief minister of J&K said.

When the DDC elections took place, the NC had asked the PDP that seat-sharing should be done based on the results of the 2019 parliamentary elections but the latter did not accept that, Omar Abdullah said.

“They told us that the candidates will be decided based on the 2014 assembly polls. The decision was made that whoever had won the assembly seat would contest that seat. So, in this parliamentary poll, the same formula was applied. Wherefrom we had won, we decided to field candidates,” he added.

Abdullah said since there was no scope for seat sharing with the PDP in the parliamentary polls, “we would keep a scope for the assembly elections”.

“But, now if Mehbooba Mufti has decided to contest on all seats, then perhaps she does not want an alliance for the assembly polls as well. In that case, I cannot say anything. We had kept the doors open, but if they are closing those doors, it is not our fault,” he added.

On DPAP founder Ghulam Nabi Azad entering the fray for Anantnag-Rajouri Lok Sabha seat, Abdullah said he was surprised.

“I am quite surprised that Azad has chosen to fight from Anantnag-Rajouri-Poonch. I would have thought that if he was keen to enter Parliament, he should have fought from his bastion, his strength in Chenab Valley. I would have thought he would have fought the Udhampur seat.

“The fact that he is not fighting from Udhampur and that he is fighting from Anantnag-Rajouri-Poonch, clearly there is (something) more than meets the eye,” he said.

Omar Abdullah said he cannot say anything about the reason and under what pressure Azad came to contest the Lok Sabha elections from Anantnag.

He said the NC has fielded the best and strongest candidate in Mian Altaf Ahmad.

“Whoever is contesting against him, we hope Altaf will win with a thumping majority,” he added.

(With PTI inputs)

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