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J&K: NC-Congress poll pact remains half-baked idea

IANS  |  Jammu/Srinagar 

Despite continuing parleys between the National Conference (NC) and the Congress, a pre-poll alliance between the two parties in is likely to remain only a half-baked cake.

There are six Lok Sabha seats in the state -- Jammu-Poonch, Kathua-Udhampur, Srinagar, Baramulla, and

In the 16th Lok Sabha, Jammu-Poonch, and seats were represented by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), by the and by the However, bypolls for the seat could not be held after Mehbooba Mufti vacated it in 2016 to become the of the state.

In order to consolidate the anti-BJP vote in the Muslim areas of Jammu and region, where both the and the have strong pockets of influence, the leaderships of the two parties have been engaged in talks to form a pre-poll alliance.

"The logic is very clear. In the last Lok Sabha and Assembly elections, candidates of both and lost in constituencies because the anti-BJP vote got divided between the two parties giving a clear advantage to the BJP.

"The objective of the talks to work out a pre-poll alliance between the two parties is to consolidate the anti-BJP vote," said a of the who did not want to be named, as the prospects of an alliance between the two parties are still under discussion.

While the NC seems to have no problem in supporting the Congress candidates in the two Lok Sabha constituencies of and Jammu-Poonch, the Congress is reportedly pressing for making the pre-poll alliance more broad-based by extending it to the state Assembly polls.

Insiders said as a goodwill gesture towards the Congress party, the NC has decided not to field its candidate for the Lok Sabha seat provided senior Congress and former state contests from this seat.

The Congress leaders say the party needs to utilise the services of Azad at the national level and as such the party might not be in a position to spare him to fight the Lok Sabha election from the state.

The NC has definite pockets of influence in many Assembly segments that constitute the two Lok Sabha seats of Jammu and Udhampur.

The NC has sizable influence in Kishtwar, Doda, Rajouri, Poonch, Bhaderwah, Darhal, Gool-Gulabgarh, Nagrota, Bishnah, Bannihal and some other areas that form the voting segments for the two Lok Sabha constituencies in the

Sources in the NC said the party would also favourably consider supporting the Congress candidate for the Lok Sabha seat once the pre-poll alliance is decided, but added that there cannot be any pre-poll alliance with the Congress for the state Assembly elections.

The two seats of and Kathua-Udhampur were won by the BJP candidates in 2014 Lok Sabha elections -- won Udhampur seat, while Jugal Kishore won the Jammu seat.

The NC has already decided to field its candidates in the three Lok Sabha seats in the Valley -- Dr. from and from Baramulla, while the party's choice of candidate for the Lok Sabha seat is yet to be announced.

Reports also indicate that the Congress high command has expressed a desire that if the two parties agree on seat sharing for the Lok Sabha polls, they should do the same for the state Assembly elections.

The Congress request is something the NC does not want to accede to, because the NC feels while the Congress influence is limited to four to five seats, there is every likelihood of the NC doing better in the 46 Assembly constituencies in the Valley provided it fights on its own.

The NC leadership does not want to share seats in the Valley with the Congress as it believes the likely electoral losses of the Mehbooba Mufti-led PDP would become NC's electoral gains.

The PDP won 28, BJP 25, NC 15, Congress 12, the CPI-M one and others 6 seats in the 87-member 2014 Assembly elections.

Given the political compulsion of the NC not to share seats with the Congress for the state Assembly elections while it is ready for a pre-po ll alliance limited to the Lok Sabha elections, the prospects of a larger pre-poll alliance between the two parties remain half-baked idea.

(Sheikh can be contacted at sheikhqayoom@gmail.com)

--IANS

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(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Fri, March 15 2019. 18:34 IST
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