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Indicator for National Conference-Congress tie-up

Both together led in half Assembly seats

By Muzaffar Raina in Srinagar

  • Published 29.05.19, 6:45 AM
  • Updated 29.05.19, 6:45 AM
Omar Abdullah
Omar Abdullah A file picture

The National Conference and the Congress together led in more than half of the Assembly segments in Jammu and Kashmir in the Lok Sabha elections, indicating that they could form the next government in the state if they forged an alliance and the voting trend persists.

The NC and the Congress together led in 46 Assembly segments, which is two more than the halfway mark in the 87-member House. The two parties, which ran the state in alliance from 2008 to 2014 but did not tie up in the 2014 Assembly polls, won a cumulative 27 seats in that state election.

The PDP with 28 seats and the BJP with 25 seats forged an alliance to form the government. The PDP had turned down offers of support from both the NC and the Congress.

In the recent Lok Sabha elections, the NC and the BJP bagged three seats each — the local outfit winning Valley constituencies and the national party getting two seats in Jammu and one in Ladakh.

In the 87 Assembly segments, the NC was ahead in 30, the BJP in 29, the Congress in 16, Engineer Sheikh Abdul Rasheed’s Awami Itihaad in five, Mehbooba Mufti’s People’s Democratic Party in four, Sajjad Lone’s People’s Conference in two and an Independent in one.

If the parties repeat this performance in the yet-to-be-announced Assembly polls, the BJP will find it difficult to get allies. Jammu and Kashmir is now under President’s rule.

The party ran an extremely unpopular alliance with the PDP, which ended on a bitter note last year with the BJP withdrawing support to Mehbooba’s government.

The only party that is being seen as a potential ally is the People’s Conference, which is unlikely to win many seats.

If such a situation arises, the NC and the Congress could together have the numbers to form the government.

The NC and the Congress will then have 46 seats between themselves and would not need the support of any other party to form the government.

But these figures do not tell the full story — situations in which the NC could attain the majority mark on its own or would require only a few seats to reach the magic figure.

The BJP, which was the only major party to field candidates in all six Lok Sabha seats in the state, led in 25 Assembly segments in Jammu, three in Ladakh and one in Kashmir’s Tral — where an extremely low voter turn-out helped the party take the lead with the support of migrant Pandit and non-Muslim voters.

The BJP, whose entire kitty of 25 seats in the 2014 Assembly polls was from Jammu, is unlikely to improve on the 2019 numbers. The NC, on the other hand, fielded candidates in only three Lok Sabha seats in the state as it had a tactical alliance with the Congress in two Jammu constituencies and did not enter the fray either in Ladakh, where it backed an Independent.

The Congress, in return, supported the NC in Srinagar but fielded candidates in the five other seats. The NC is officially not part of the UPA.

This means the NC is in a position to increase its tally in the impending Assembly elections as it expects to win seats in both Jammu and Ladakh.

The PDP, which had won the most seats in the 2014 Assembly polls — 28 — and emerged victorious in all three Valley seats in the Lok Sabha elections that year, drew a blank this time in the parliamentary polls. Experts, however, believe it will be naive to dismiss Mehbooba’s party as it can stage a comeback.

The 2019 Lok Sabha elections also saw the emergence of Rasheed of the Awami Itihaad, who strongly backs the azadi demand and supports the right to self-determination for Jammu and Kashmir. Rasheed’s party led in five Assembly segments, all in north Kashmir, and can emerge as a key player in the coming polls. The chances of Rasheed backing the BJP are very slim.

NC general secretary Ali Mohammad Sagar said his party would win on its own when the Assembly elections are held and would not need allies.

“You should remember that we did not contest in Jammu and Ladakh (in the Lok Sabha elections). We will get 45 seats on our own to form the government in the state and will not need allies,” Sagar told The Telegraph.

Sagar, however, said the NC would take a call on a possible alliance at an appropriate time if the leadership so decided.

A Congress leader said his party was not averse to a pre-poll alliance with the NC, provided it got a fair deal.

“We are natural partners and ran a successful alliance for six years in the state up to 2014. But it is eventually in the hands of our central leadership to take a call,” he said.