With NC deciding to contest on all three LS seats, Mufti’s PDP likely to follow suit

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Srinagar, March 26 (IANS) After the regional National Conference (NC) headed by Dr. Farooq Abdullah took the wind out of the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) sails, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) headed by Mehbooba Mufti is left with no option other than dig in its feet.

The PAGD was formed in 2019 to keep the BJP out of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K).

It was decided that the alliance partners, the NC, PDP, CPI(M), Awami National Conference (ANC) and others would fight the BJP together by fielding common candidates for all elections, including those of the Lok Sabha and the Assembly.

The NC has already announced that it will field candidates for all the three Lok Sabha seats in the Valley.

This announcement sounded the death knell for the PAGD in J&K.

With NC deciding to concede no seat to the PDP, there are only two options left open for the party. It either eats the humble pie and keeps licking its wounds or decides to assert itself by fielding candidates for the Lok Sabha elections.

Whatever else might be said about Mehbooba Mufti, but one thing goes without saying, she won’t allow the PDP to be sacrificed at the NC’s electoral altar.

“We are a political party and what good is a political party that remains out of elections?” said a senior PDP leader, who for obvious reasons did not want to be named.

NC Vice President, Omar Abdullah has said that his party would announce the names of its candidates for the three Lok Sabha seats in the Valley “at the appropriate time” and after the Eid festival that falls around April 10.

Even as Omar Abdullah tries to keep the suspense alive, the cat is already out of the bag. According to the party’s rivals, the NC has decided to field “Mian Altaf Ahmad from the Anantnag-Rajouri seat, Dr. Farooq Abdullah from Srinagar and Omar Abdullah from the Baramulla seat.”

“If he still believes that there is some kind of suspense in his choice of candidates, let him prove us wrong by naming somebody other than these three persons”, said a senior leader of the J&K Apni Party headed by Syed Altaf Bukhari.

PDP insiders believe there is a catch to Omar Abdullah’s so-called suspense.

“He wants us to blink first by announcing our candidates for the three Lok Sabha seats in the Valley before the NC makes its choice of candidates formal. But if he thinks that the PDP will blink first and announce its candidates before the NC does, he is mistaken.

“Thinking that we will announce candidates before the NC, so that he (Omar Abdullah) can blame the demise of the PAGD on us, is grossly underestimating Mehbooba Mufti.

“We have all the time in the world to wait for the NC to carry the PAGD’s coffin to the graveyard”, said a PDP insiders close to Mehbooba Mufti.

The long and short of this wait and watch game between the NC and the PDP is that the two parties will finally field candidates against each other in all the seats.

Mostly likely, Mehbooba Mufti will stand from the Anantnag-Rajouri seat which is her home constituency and also the perceived stronghold of her party.

For Srinagar, the PDP could field Waheed Para, the strong, well-entrenched youth leader belonging to Pulwama District which is now part of the Srinagar Lok Sabha seat.

For Baramulla, Mir Mohammad Fayaz, former Rajya Sabha member, who recently rejoined the PDP, could be fielded by the party.

The net result of the PDP and the NC fighting against each other would be division of the Kashmiri-speaking Muslim votes of the Valley.

The NC and the PDP fielding candidates against each other would turn out to be an advantage for the BJP in the Anantnag-Rajouri constituency and for those supported by the BJP in Srinagar and Baramulla, if it decides not to field its own candidates for these two seats.

In this scenario, Srinagar will cease to be a cakewalk for Dr. Farooq Abdullah.

These permutations and combinations become further compounded by the J&K Apni Party also deciding to field its candidates for the Lok Sabha seats in the Valley.

In a nutshell, the days of foregone supremacy of any single political party in the Valley are over. Each one of them will have to fight the Lok Sabha elections with all their might and wait for the final choice of the voters with bated breath.



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