IN a significant decision, Congress has decided to jointly contest the District Development Council polls jointly with the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD). Incidentally, the decision comes after the national party had skipped the recent meetings of the grouping. Now Congress has let it be known that the decision to stay away was tactical in nature in view of the Bihar polls and also a consequence of some controversial statements made by Dr Farooq Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti. Abdullah was alleged to have said that China will help Kashmir regain the lost autonomy and Mehbooba had said she wouldn’t pick up national flag untill J&K flag was restored. Now the Congress has said it remains very much a part of the PAGD and would fight the upcoming DDC polls “together”. Senior Congress leader Saif-u-Din Soz has said that the fresh set of laws issued by the Centre on land, industry and scholarships “were meant to disempower the people of J&K and the non-BJP parties have right to fight these draconian measures”. This is a shot in the arm of the PAGD. Together the six parties will make a formidable combination and are likely to command the lion’s share of the DDC positions in the union territory.
The eight-phase polls will begin from November 28. The elections were announced all of a sudden with the constituencies of the districts yet to be delimited. But the PAGD was also quick to declare its participation taking many people by surprise as earlier the utterances of its top leaders like Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba had said they won’t be personally taking part in the exercise. This seemed to indicate that the PAGD was reluctant to fight polls as some quarters had expressed apprehensions that this would normalise the revocation of Article 370. But the PAGD decision has belied such expectations. The six-party alliance, led by senior Abdullah, took the decision after a meeting in Jammu, where members of the amalgam met around 30 separate delegations on a set of listed agenda, including the DDC polls.The alliance has authorized Farooq Abdullah to release the list of candidates for the DDC polls.
Be that as it may, the PAGD has rationalised its decision to participate as a bid to reclaim the political space, cautioning that doing otherwise would enable the BJP and its allied parties to fill in the vacuum and control the levers of power. The grouping also argues that strengthening its political presence at the district level will add force to its position that Article 370 was revoked without consulting people of J&K.
Given the powers the DDCs have been given, they have become the kind of mini-assemblies and the PAGD wants to control them to enhance its political clout. After over a year-long hiatus, the political activity is about to pick up again in J&K. The coming weeks and months are going to get interesting.
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