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J&K: PAGD Constituents May Fight Polls Separately, Insist Broader Alliance ‘Intact’

Anees Zargar |
“We never said it was a platform for electoral adjustment... The purpose is to stand together for rights of the people”, said PAGD spokesperson Yousuf Tarigami
M.Y Tarigami

Srinagar: The People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) may not be putting up a united stand in the next Assembly elections, leaders from the group’s key constituent National Conference (NC) indicated on Wednesday but said that the broader alliance remains “intact.”

The NC put out a statement claiming that the party was meted out an “unfair treatment” in PAGD, demanding a course correction but hinting at a possible departure from any form of electoral unity. The party’s provincial committee members in a meeting held on Wednesday said they have “unanimously” resolved that NC should prepare and fight on all the 90 seats.

"The participants present in the meeting expressed dismay over the recent statements, audio jingles and speeches made by some of the constituents of the PAGD targeting JKNC. They felt that it does not contribute to the overall unity of the amalgam," the party tweeted.

The meeting was led by party vice-president Omar Abdullah in which the PAGD led by Omar’s father and party president Farooq Abdullah was slammed. Omar, however, was quoted saying that the only way to protect J&K’s identity is to first register and cast votes in huge numbers.

Omar Abdullah’s counsel to people for participation in elections likely stems from the belief that many in the valley may not consider voting in the upcoming elections, which they believe, will only establish a defanged legislative Assembly. 

The PAGD was formed after the abrogation of Article 370 and 35 A and subsequent bifurcation of the erstwhile state into two union territories on August 5, 2019, as an advocate to restore the ‘special status.’ The mainstream leaders met at the Gupkar residence of Farooq Abdullah a day before the abrogation and adopted a resolution which opposed any attempt to tinker with the constitutional rights of the people of J&K. It was later referred to as the Gupkar declaration and then as PAGD.  

Initially, PAGD was seen as a “major challenge” to New Delhi and a cornerstone for future politics. Since then, it attempted to emerge as the “interpreter of people’s aspiration” but lost to internal bickering and also faced credibility issues. During the District Development Council elections held last winter, there were allegations that some of the constituents fielded proxy candidates in the polls. The others have in defence of the group argued that it is an ‘ideological’ alliance and not meant to be an electoral alliance. 

Communist Party of India (Marxist) or CPI(M) leader and PAGD’s spokesperson Mohammad Yousuf Tarigami said PAGD was a broader alliance and its stand on the core issues remains intact. 

“We never said it was a platform for electoral adjustment. We have not merged and even within a party, there are differences of opinions. The purpose is to stand together for the rights of the people of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh,” Tarigami told NewsClick. 

After Congress and Sajad Lone-led Jammu and Kashmir People’s Conference parted their ways from the group, NC, PDP, CPI(M) and Awami National Conference (ANC) remain as its constituents. Lone and Altaf Bukhari who head the Apni Party have since been critical of the PAGD and its constituents NC and PDP.

The ANC accuses both Lone and Bukhari of acting as the Bhartiya Janata Party’s (BJP) covert aides in the Union Territory, an allegation that they have levelled against NC and PDP as well. Amidst this, many see the regional parties finding it difficult to navigate the challenges owing to systematic but unpredictable change of goalposts from New Delhi, the inclusion of non-resident voters being the most recent challenge. However, there is still some hope left. 

“The PAGD will not end on whims. The decision on the election will be taken when the election is announced and depends on the situation then. Statements will come but everyone has to show patience and be ready for sacrifice,” PAGD president Farooq Abdullah said.

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