Fissures appear in NC-Congress alliance in J&K (News Analysis)

Jammu, April 17 (IANS) In the run-up to the 2014 parliamentary and Jammu and Kashmir state assembly polls, fissures have started appearing in National Conference (NC)-Congress ruling alliance forged after the 2008 assembly polls.

Recently, Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) chief Saif-ud-Din Soz claimed that “Congress would be a crucial political factor in the politics of Jammu and Kashmir in the 2014 assembly elections.”

Ever since his re-appointment as the PCC chief earlier this month, Soz has become aggressive against other political parties, including the National Conference.

He has been claiming that the “Congress will emerge as the single largest party in the next assembly polls.”

Congress leaders, in recent public speeches, have also demanded snapping of the alliance with the NC before the 2014 elections.

Of late, however, areas of differences have cropped up: While the NC has been pitching for the restoration of autonomy to Jammu and Kashmir, which means that state would have its own head of state and prime minister and control all departments except foreign affairs, defence and communications, the Congress is opposed to that; the two parties are also reading from two scripts on the issue of revocing the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA).

The National Conference is blaming the army for playing spoilsport, while the Congress maintains that the “army is an important stakeholder” in the state.

Soz says: “The people of Kashmir have rejected violence and have joined the mainstream in order to ensure peace and development, and secure the future of their children.”

He has also proclaimed: “The matter of a pre-poll alliance with NC will be decided by the Congress high command.”

The NC has 28 legislators and the Congress 17 in the 87-member assembly. The main opposition PDP has 21 seats. The remianing 21 seats belong to the Bhartiya Janata Party, Jammu Kashmir National Panthers Party, the Communist Party of India-Marxist and independents.

The additional general secretary of the NC, Sheikh Mustafa Kamal, the younger brother of party president Farooq Abdullah, has also raised the pitch against the Congress.

During his recent public meetings, Kamal said: “The pre-poll alliance with Congress depends on whether it suits the public interest; if it doesn’t, we will snap it (alliance). Then we will fight the Congress politically.”

Mustafa Kamal reiterated his party’s demand for greater autonomy for the state and restoration of pre-1953 position which envisages that areas of constitutional authority other than Defence, External Affairs and Communications should be restored to Jammu and Kashmir.

Holding New Delhi responsible for eroding the special status of Jammu and Kashmir by virtue of Article 370 of the Indian constitution, he observed: “Had the centre not eroded the special status of J&K, then the state would not have lost thousands of lives.”

Even some senior NC ministers have said, on condition of anonymity: “The NC has been at a loss due to its alliance with the Congress.”

The assembly elections of 2008 resulted in a fractured mandate, leading to the NC-Congress alliance of January 2009.

Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah too has been lashing out at centre on various issues including “double standards” adopted by New Delhi with regard to Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru and others.

He said that Afzal Guru’s hanging was a “matter of pick and choose”, while other convicts facing death sentence have been measured by different yardsticks.

Afzal Guru, who had provided logistic support for the terrorists for mounting attack on the Indian Parliament on December 13, 2001, was sentenced to death in October 2004 and the Supreme Court had upheld his death sentence twice, was hanged to death on February 9 this year.

Omar Abdullah had claimed that he was informed only 12 hours before the execution of the Parliament attack convict.

He also picked up the emotional issue of the alleged harassment of Kashmiris outside the state, and said that he was asked questions and “I have no answers”.

In a recent central working committee meeting of NC, while discussing the pre-poll alliance with Congress party for the forthcoming parliamentary and assembly elections, the Working Committee resolved “to take a decision on the issue at an appropriate time.”

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