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Fissures in Gupkar alliance after Kashmiri leader’s Delhi visit

The alliance of seven valley-based political parties, including the Communist Party of India (Marxist), has begun to develop cracks after a senior Kashmiri leader’s recent visit to New Delhi. Heading a regional party, the leader is said to have met with the top functionaries in the Union Ministry of Home Affairs including Home Minister Amit Shah.

According to the well-placed political and bureaucratic sources privy to the development, the Kashmiri leader has also attended a dinner meeting with the Apni Party founder-president Altaf Bukhari. The Apni Party has contested the recent District Development Council (DDC) elections independently in Jammu and Kashmir but it is widely believed to be friendly with the BJP. It comprises a number of former legislators and Ministers who have mostly deserted Mehbooba Mufti’s PDP after her dismissal as Chief Minister.

The first voice of dissidence came from Basharat Bukhari of the National Conference (NC) who publicly challenged the PAGD leadership to roll out the “road map” of getting back Article 370 and the Statehood. He clarified to a local news agency that without drawing a road map, the PAGD would end up as another alliance like the Hurriyat.

“Gupkar Declaration” was for protecting Article 370, 35-A, the Constitution and the flag of Jammu and Kashmir and the Statehood. That all stands snatched away”, Bukhari has pointed out and asked the senior leadership to delineate the path of realising the goal of Article 370 and Statehood. After serving as MLC, MLA and Minister, Bukhari has joined the NC.

Over a dozen of leaders, associated with different constituents, have raised questions asking why there was no electoral alliance on the 140 seats in Jammu and why several members of the constituents had contested elections against one another in Kashmir. Those who contested the PAGD’s NC nominees include PDP’s Women’s wing president Safeena Baig in Wagora Baramulla and PDP General Secretary Nazir Ahmad Khan in Beerwah. Senior PDP leader and former Minister Ghulam Nabi Hanjura’s candidates fought NC’s official candidates in four segments of Budgam district.

PC’s vice president and a former Minister Abdul Gani Vakil has demanded “necessary action” against the rebels and the proxies who contested against the official candidates of the PAGD.

In a statement Vakil has said that the alliance parties fielded proxy candidates and reduced the DDC elections to a joke. “No doubt the Gupkar Alliance did well in the elections but the expectation was to sweep the polls which could not happen as the leadership lacked sincerity. Why did we get so less seats in Kashmir valley is something the leadership must ask themselves”, he added.

Vakil said the PC president, with whom he claimed to have held four meetings expressing his apprehensions, should introspect whether there was any sincerity in the alliance.

“Again I asked him today which party he was fighting on the ground. Almost on all seats you were fighting your ally National Conference. The reality is all of us fought each other on the ground. We wanted to sweep the polls but got very few seats. What was the purpose of lying to the people and telling them we were in an alliance when in the majority of the cases there was no alliance? The results are there for everybody to see. And even today nobody is willing to speak the truth. We talk of an alliance in Srinagar while in villages, our workers fight it out against each other”, Vakil asserted.

Vakil said that in a letter to his party president he had already expressed these apprehensions which, according to him, came true. He asked Lone to immediately call a meeting for introspection. “We shouldn’t mislead the people”.

The valley-based alliance, known as Peoples Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD), which contested the district elections on the plank of defeating the BJP and keeping it away from power in J&K, has bagged 110 seats out of 280. Farooq Abdullah’s National Conference (NC), Mehbooba Mufti’s PDP and Sajad Gani Lone’s Peoples Conference (PC) are its key constituents.

The BJP and the NC have emerged as the first and the second largest party with 75 and 67 seats respectively but no party or alliance has achieved the magic figure of 141 seats. There were 14 seats in each of the J&K’s 20 districts—10 each in Kashmir and Jammu. While Lone has not spoken much, Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti have claimed the DDC results as a ‘victory’ for PAGD..