Congress joins hands with People's Alliance

Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Monga addressing reporters outside Mehbooba Mufti's residence in Srinagar on Friday. GK Photo

The People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) held back-to-back marathon meetings on Friday to discuss seat sharing for upcoming District Development Council (DDC) polls during which Congress leaders took part for the first time.

The meetings to finalise candidates were held a day after PAGD candidates filed nominations for the first phase of DDC polls beginning November 28.

However, it was for the first time that Congress leaders took part in the meetings of PAGD and joined hands with the alliance, which vows to fight for restoration of Article 370. PAGD, an amalgam of 7 parties, had last week announced to contest DDC polls jointly.

The first PAGD meeting on Friday, which began at 11 am and lasted for 2 hours was held at the residence of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) president Mehbooba Mufti at Gupkar. The venue was later shifted as the second PAGD meeting of the day was held at National Conference headquarters Nawai Subha complex. The second meeting in which leaders from all seven constituents of PAGD took part concluded at 6 pm.

Addressing media persons after the Gupkar meeting, senior Congress leader G N Monga said the party had “no complaints and no reservations against the PAGD and would contest the DDC polls jointly.”

“A healthy discussion took place and we stood by the alliance. The meetings will continue,” Monga said.

Addressing media persons, senior vice-president Awami National Conference, Muzaffar Shah, said the alliance will contest the election as “one single unit and not allow BJP to even win one seat”. “That will be enough answer to the Government of India on what people of Kashmir want. Whether a party gets to contest on one seat or 50 seats is no issue. It is a consensus and everybody will fight for restoration of our rights,” Shah said.

Senior NC leader Nasir Aslam Wani said there was “no rift in the alliance over seat sharing” adding that it is “an elaborate exercise” to finalise the candidates.

“We are finalising candidates for 10 districts so it is going to take time after which a consolidated list of candidates will be issued. It is not correct to say that in the first phase of DDC polls, a single party had bagged more seats and others less,” Wani said.

NC leader Hasnain Masoodi said the meetings to finalise the candidates was not “just a matter of numbers of seats but a question of giving an answer.”

“Each party wants to express its opposition to the decisions taken on August 5, 2019. Even Congress is equally committed towards the Gupkar declaration,” Masoodi said.

The PAGD candidates contesting the DDC polls on Thursday and Friday filed nominations for the first phase of the polls to be held on November 28.

The PAGD has fielded 27 candidates from three parties including National Conference, Peoples Democratic Party and Peoples Conference. NC has the highest number of seats to contest and will have 21 candidates contesting the first phase of the polls while PDP has 4 and Peoples Conference 2 candidates.

The election commission has announced DDC polls on 280 seats in 8 phases in J&K.

On November 9, Dr Farooq Abdullah who is the PAGD president, said candidates of the amalgam’s constituents will fight the DDC polls on their own party symbols. The DDC poll would be the first major political activity to take place in J&K since the abrogation of Article 370 on August 5 last year.

According to the notifications, the last date for submitting nominations for the first phase was November 12 followed by scrutiny a day later and withdrawal of candidature on November 16.

The polling would be held from 7 am to 2 pm on November 28. The counting of votes for all the phases of DDC polls would be on December 22.