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India

Is Gupkar Alliance Devoid of A CM Face For J&K Polls?

While the Gupkar alliance was formed in response to Center’s move to abrogate Article 370, senior party leaders from both PDP and National Conference had vowed not to contest any elections till the special status of J&K was restored.

Gupkar Alliance
Members of People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration Farooq Abdullah, Mehbooba Mufti, M Y Taragami and others addresses a press conference, in Jammu, Tuesday, Dec 21, 2021. (PTI Photo)

Jammu and Kashmir will be going to polls before the end of this year as stated by many senior BJP leaders including Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh. However, there has been a political lull in the erstwhile state since the abrogation of Article 370, with no major electoral activity taking place and neither open campaigning on any defined electoral issues.

People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration which saw many people shifting sides has announced that it will fight elections together, which means both JKPDP and JKNC, who are signatories to the PAGD, will run shoulder to shoulder. This has reportedly been done not to leave the ground empty for the BJP.

While the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration was formed in response to Center’s unilateral action in abrogating the state’s special status, senior party leaders from both J&K Peoples Democratic Party as well as J&K National Conference had vowed not to contest any elections till the special status of J&K was restored.

The last election that took place in the Union Territory after Article 370 abrogation was a District Development Council election which had quite predictable results much like the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

The Jammu region witnessed a majority of the seats going to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) while the Kashmir region saw it going to parties including JKPDP and the National Conference.

The elections were contested together by these parties under the banner of the People’s Alliance for the Gupkar Declaration. BJP had emerged as the single largest party winning 75 seats, followed by JKNC winning 67 seats and JK PDP winning 27 seats.

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However, political experts say the upcoming Assembly elections in the union territory are likely to throw many surprises. They say there may be new players emerging, and those who strongly condemned the BJP’s withdrawal of special status and subsequent dissection of the state may partake in the election process despite refusing to do it months ago.

The National Conference stalwart and the former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Omar Abdullah, had said that until and unless the special status of Jammu and Kashmir is restored, he would not be contesting elections. This statement was also seconded by the JK PDP patron Mehbooba Mufti.

In an opinion piece in The Indian Express, Abdullah had said that he’s “very clear” that until Jammu and Kashmir remains a union territory, he will not be contesting any Assembly elections.

Calling the former Assembly of Jammu and Kashmir the “most empowered in the land”, Abdullah had said that after being a member of this house and that too being its leader for six years, “I cannot and will not be a member of a house that has been disempowered like ours”.

Similarly, following the all-party meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in July 2021, Mehbooba Mufti said that she “won’t contest any election till 35A and 370 are restored”. She added that the issue was not merely a political slogan but the question of identity of the people of Jammu and Kashmir.

Now with elections edging near, what remains to be seen is if both the party stalwarts stick to their statements.

However, unlike individual statements, the parties have said that they would be contesting elections together but have taken jibes at BJP, blaming them of creating hurdles in the campaigning by any rival parties.

Both JK PDP and JKNC leaders have said that the BJP has deliberately withdrawn the security of senior party leaders to restrict their movement among the masses.

In an earlier report by India Ahead, leaders from JKNC said that BJP was weaponising security withdrawal to win the elections. “Now, imagine Sarpanches are grassroots representatives of the parties and they are being slaughtered like lambs,” JKNC leader Ajay Sadhotra said on the killing of many Sarpanches by militants in the valley in the recent past.

“Imagine what is the threat perception of those in higher party positions. Elections are ahead and killings are rife too. It is natural our campaigns will be affected with no real security cover. BJP has weaponised this security withdrawal to win elections,” he said.