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Cloud Over INDIA Bloc as Farooq Abdullah Says National Conference Will Go it Alone in LS Polls

Significantly, the veteran Kashmir leader who had been one of the main votaries of a united anti-NDA force, did not rule out returning to the NDA in the future.
Farooq Abdullah. Photo: The Wire

New Delhi: Jammu and Kashmir National Conference supremo Farooq Abdullah has said that his party will contest alone on all seats in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, in what may prove to be yet another setback for the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA).

Abdullah also hinted at the possibility of simultaneous assembly and Lok Sabha polls in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir. Political parties in Jammu and Kashmir have been demanding an assembly election ever since Article 370 was read down. The Union government has been reluctant in conducting it. 

“As far as seat sharing is concerned, I want to make it clear the National Conference will contest elections on its own strength. There are no two opinions about it. There should be no questions on this anymore,” Abdullah told reporters.

“I think that elections in both states (Jammu and Kashmir) will be held with the parliamentary elections,” he added. 

Abdullah’s decision has come after a number of his party leaders in the Jammu region joined the Bharatiya Janata Party last month. The delay in seat-sharing talks may have triggered the announcement. 

On February 12, Abdullah was summoned by the Enforcement Directorate for questioning in a case related to alleged financial irregularities in the Jammu and Kashmir Cricket Association. 

Significantly, the veteran Kashmir leader did not rule out returning to the NDA fold in the future. Abdullah had expressed his anguish over the delay in seat-sharing arrangement, and had hinted at forming a separate alliance in Kashmir. 

Meanwhile, Congress’s chief spokesperson Jairam Ramesh responded to Abdullah’s announcement, “Talks are going on. Every party has their own limitations. National Conference and PDP have been a part of the INDIA bloc, and will continue to remain so.”

Abdullah’s flip-flop may come as a surprise as he has been one of the most vocal advocates of forming a united opposition alliance. He has also been one of the most vocal opponents of the BJP in recent times.

In a recent interview, Abdullah asserted that “to safeguard the nation, we must set aside our disagreements and prioritise the country’s welfare.”

However, Omar Abdullah, unlike his father, asserted that the National Conference continues to be a part of INDIA.

Farooq Abdullah’s son and former J&K chief minister said that his father’s statement was a reflection of what the party cadre feels but indicated that the NC’s talks with Congress and PDP may have hit a roadblock over its interest in contesting a few seats where other INDIA constituents in the valley too want to field their candidates.

“On the seat sharing, we have been very clear for the last few months. The seats that will be discussed are those that are held with BJP, we are firm on that position,” he said.

“National Conference has made no secrets about the fact that they would rather fight elections on all seats, but the truth is that sometimes for a bigger objective, small sacrifices have to be made. If the bigger objective is to win seats back from the BJP…then if it is necessary for NC to enter into seat sharing with Congress, our doors are open,” he added.

“We have not yet had any formal discussion with Congress (on seat sharing), informally some dialogues have taken place. We are not the sort of a party that has our feet in multiple boats, once we make friends, we stick to those friends,” he further said.

Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal (United) and Jayant Chaudhary’s Rashtriya Janata Dal recently left the alliance and joined the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance. West Bengal chief minister and Trinamool Congress leader Mamata Banerjee has also exited INDIA after she declared that she will contest alone in West Bengal after her party’s talks with the Congress on seat-sharing collapsed.

Similarly, Aam Aadmi Party chief minister in Punjab Bhagwant Mann has also said that the party will contest all 13 seats in Punjab, leaving the Congress embarrassed. More recently, the talks between AAP and Congress also appear to be crashing after AAP only agreed to vacate one of the seven seats of Delhi for the Congress. 

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