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Cornered by Home Minister Amit Shah, Congress ditches Gupkar Alliance

Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s thread of tweets on Tuesday forced the Congress party to break its tactful relationship with the Kashmir-based Peoples Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) in contesting the District Development Council (DDC) elections in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K).

The Farooq Abdullah-headed alliance of the seven mainstream regional political parties, also supported overtly by the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and covertly by the Congress, is contesting the DDC elections—the first democratic exercise after the abrogation of Article 370 in August 2019—mainly to ensure the defeat of the BJP and its J&K friend Apni Party.

The eight-phase DDC elections, along with interim polling to fill up over 13,000 vacancies in the Panchayati Raj Institutions, are being held from November 28 to December 22, 2020. It is for the first time that all the valley-based mainstream parties, with the exception of Apni Party, have joined hands to deny a monopoly to the BJP. PAGD constituents are struggling for restoration of statehood and Article 370 and 35-A which had granted a special constitutional status to the erstwhile state of J&K.

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“The Gupkar Gang is going global! They want foreign forces to intervene in Jammu and Kashmir. The Gupkar Gang also insults India’s Tricolour. Do Sonia Ji and Rahul Ji support such moves of the Gupkar Gang? They should make their stand crystal clear to the people of India”, Home Minister Shah tweeted on Tuesday. He addressed the valley-based alliance as the “Gupkar Gang”.

“Congress and the Gupkar Gang want to take J&amp;K back to the era of terror and turmoil. They want to take away rights of Dalits, women and tribals that we have ensured by removing Article 370. This is why they’re being rejected by the people everywhere”, Shah tweeted while mounting a frontal attack on Sonia Gandhi’s party.

“Jammu and Kashmir has been, is and will always remain an integral part of India. Indian people will no longer tolerate an unholy ‘global gathbandhan’ against our national interest. Either the Gupkar Gang swims along with the national mood or else the people will sink it”, Shah tweeted, asserting firmly that J&amp;K would always remain an integral part of India.

The J&amp;K Pradesh Congress Committee (JKPCC) had initially owned up its association with the PAGD. However, apparently for fear of electoral losses, Congress remained tight-lipped and did not attend the PAGD meetings during the course of the Bihar Assembly elections.

Immediately after the Bihar results came out in favour of the BJP-JDU alliance, JKPCC leaders began asserting publicly that their party was a part of the PAGD and contesting the DDC elections in a seat-sharing arrangement. Even Farooq Abdullah claimed on more than one occasion that Congress party was a part of the PAGD.

Shah’s attack on Congress came at an unexpected time as neither the Congress nor the BJP were currently fighting any elections across the country except the DDC elections in J&amp;K.

Landing in an embarrassing situation, the JKPCC on Tuesday lost no time to initiate a damage control exercise. It immediately issued a statement claiming that it was not a part of the PAGD. The statement refuted what it called “the baseless allegations levelled by Union Home Minister Amit Shah”.

“(Congress) was neither part of PAGD nor have participated in any of its meetings or deliberations, but it has entered seat sharing at certain places at local district level (sic.)”, said the party statement. “Congress strongly condemned the propaganda and allegations of Amit shah and urged the later to refrain from doing such dirty politics."

The statement further said that the BJP leaders were “in habit of indulging in rumour mongering aiming to gain political mileage”. It added: “Eyeing on DDC elections in J&amp;K, Union Home Minister seems desperate enough about the poll outcome, which is certainly going to be unfavourable to BJP”.

However the Congress declaration of not being a part of the PAGD created an embarrassing situation not only for the Farooq-led alliance but also for the National Conference (NC) that lost the two DDC seats of Dooru and Shangas in Anantnag district to the Congress without contesting.

Monday, 16 November being the last day of filing nomination papers in Phase-II of the DDC elections, JKPCC president Ghulam Ahmad Mir’s son Naseer Ahmad Mir filed his papers from Dooru in the seat-sharing arrangement with the PAGD. The decision to leave Dooru and Shangas for the Congress left two of NC’s strong aspirants disappointed, reportedly angry, in Dooru and the NC’s former Assembly candidate, advocate Riyaz Ahmad Khan, in Shahngas.

In Shangas, former Congress MLA Gulzar Khan’s daughter, Saba Gulzar, filed the nomination papers on Monday on behalf of the PAGD. As the Congress has denied its association with the PAGD, no other party or independent candidate can now file nomination papers from Dooru and Shangas where the fight will be straight between the Congress and the BJP..