DOST KHAN / ANCHOR
National Confe-rence- Congress combine and the ruling PDP are up in arms with goal-posts changed for the upcoming by-polls to two parliamentary constituencies of Srinagar and Anantnag in the Valley. The by-elections are seen more as referendum on Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti’s alliance with the BJP and her government’s handling of 2016 Kashmir unrest and less win or loss.
The battle lines are drawn with uneasy calm in the Mehbooba camp. Contrarily, the NC-Congress alliance is calling wolf to corner PDP for allying with the BJP albeit RSS, in common Kashmiri parlance ‘Jang Sanghi’. The fire-brand coalition ‘commander’ Tariq Hameed Karra is speaking the language short of Syed Ali Shah Geelani and more venomous than Asadudin Owaisi. The National Conference has completely assumed role of the erstwhile PDP, which became clear the day Farooq Abdullah offered olive branch to separatist Hurriyat Conference. Like PDP, which expressed gratitude to terrorists, separatists and Pakistan after the 2014 polls, the National Conference too is sending signals of bonhomie to those sitting opposite side of the fence in Kashmir.
In the midst of low-key campaigning, something somewhere seems to be terribly amiss. While the Congress President Ghulam Ahmed Mir is trying his luck against high profile but politically naïve Tassaduq Mufti, the younger brother of the Chief Minister and PDP supremo, the top Congressmen from New Delhi are seen nowhere. It is not just a by-election for a single Lok Sabha seat from Kashmir but upon this lie the longevity of the present PDP-BJP dispensation and the future of Congress in Jammu, its stronghold. Except for Ambika Soni, the senior Congressmen like Ghulam Nabi Azad and Saif-ud-Din Soz prefer to remain aloof.
The Congress High Command is either too confident or ignorant about the calculated PDP strategy. Mir stands a good chance, given the prospect of low polling in PDP bastion which remained infested by unrest last year. Some of the Assembly segments are potentially important for the Congress which needs motivation and persuasion.
In the alliance culture of Kashmir, Ghulam Ahmed Mir should not expect too much from National Conference, notwithstanding its Working President Omar Abdullah throwing his weight behind him on the day of filing of nomination and afterwards. In an atmosphere of fear and intimidation, the National Conference supporters will not like to get exposed, especially as they have no commitment. Similarly, the National Conference cannot bank too much upon the Congress despite former MP Tariq Hameed Karra’s honest support. Karra has a reason, stronger than the National Conference. He is carrying out the campaign for National Conference with an element of vengeance, which is why he is caring too little for the so-called secular image of the Congress. Karra’s each electoral meeting turns out to be huge embarrassment for the Congress, as he espouses the cause of those whom his party can’t afford to own, especially in Jammu, where the Congress has entirely been routed in 2014 assembly and parliamentary elections.
The National Conference, as of now, stands a chance after the two powerful Shia leaders from Badgam aligned with it and the anger against PDP’s tie up with the BJP and handling of last year’s unrest is concerned. The wrath of people will benefit the National Conference of negative vote, as there is no love lost for it either. But presently, it is seen as a lesser evil, considering the PDP’s proximity to the Sangh Parivar.
Given the positives and negatives of aligning with the BJP, the PDP seems unmoved of the high pitch propaganda unleashed by the NC-Congress combine. It does not feel shy of its alliance with ‘much-disliked’ BJP in Kashmir. It deliberately counseled its coalition partner not to field any candidate at the risk of being seen having clandestine alliance. Perhaps that will be lesser embarrassing than campaigning against the party the PDP is partnering the government.
The two parties could not afford to be seen at logger heads or in eyeball to eyeball situation despite sharing the government. The PDP’s comfort of owning Narendra Modi, Yogi Adityanath and Sakhshi Maharj’s BJP is un-nerving the NC-Congress alliance. They can’t make out the PDP’s strategy in showcasing its alliance with BJP with a sense of pride. Mehbooba Mufti’s latest installment of praise for Narendra Modi is confusing the political pundits as also her opponents. What she is actually up to? One just fails to understand the under-currents in Kashmir.
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