Srinagar: The Jammu and Kashmir People’s Conference (JKPC), led by Sajad Lone, on Tuesday pulled out from the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) – an amalgam of mainstream parties in Kashmir – formed to restore the special status of the region earlier in October last year.
In a letter to PAGD president Farooq Abdullah, Lone alleged there had been a “breach of trust between partners” which his party believed was “beyond remedy.”
“The majoritarian view in our party is that we should pull out of the alliance in an amicable manner rather than wait for things to get messier. And I am confirming that we will no longer be a part of the PAGD alliance,” the letter from Lone stated.
The party called off its association with the alliance after many of its leaders alleged that other constituent parties, including National Conference (NC), fielded proxy candidates against the officially mandated candidates of the PAGD in the recently held District Development Council (DDC) polls.
“We believe that the votes polled against the PAGD are majorly the votes cast by proxies of PAGD constituent parties against official PAGD candidates,” Lone said.
The PC chief said people are aware that the alliance fielded candidates against each other and are raising questions: “If we can’t trust the PAGD leadership on something as basic as a DDC seat, how can we trust them for larger issues.”
The JKPC leader added that “the net outcome of selectively voting for and against PAGD is a very poor vote share”, which, he pointed out, that the people of J&K do not “deserve.”
Lone: A former PDP-BJP Ally
Sajad Lone, 53, served as a minister in the People’s Democratic Party-Bharatiya Janata Party coalition government during 2015-2018. The son of a leading political figure, Abdul Ghani Lone, who was assassinated in May 2002, he was a separatist politician before joining mainstream politics in the state following which he expressed his support to Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the 2014 Assembly elections. But, before joining the mainstream, Lone was accused by separatists, including Syed Ali Geelani, for fielding proxy candidates in 2002 elections.
The development comes less than a month after the alliance won majority of seats in the DDC polls held in the region between November and December. The PAGD, including Congress, contested these polls on a seat sharing basis against the BJP and its allies in the region.
The alliance had won as many as 110 seats, a majority of them from Kashmir valley, out of the total 280 seats on which polls were held across the region.
The PAGD was formed days after former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti was released from 14- month-long detention since the abrogation of Article 370 and bifurcation of J&K into two Union territories on August 5, 2019. The senior leaders from mainstream political parties -- including Mehbooba Mufti, Farooq Abdullah and Sajad Lone and CPI(M) leader MY Tarigami, ANC vice-president Muzaffar Ahmad Shah and JKPM leader Javaid Mustafa Mir -- were part of the alliance formation.
The formation of PAGD was considered a major political development in the region since the abrogation of Article 370 on August 5, 2019. The leaders had issued statements expressing their commitment to “strive for the restoration of Articles 370 and 35A, the Constitution of J&K and the restoration of the State” and claimed that any division of the Jammu and Kashmir was “unacceptable” to them.
The letter from Lone, however, said that he was “divorcing from the alliance not its objectives.”
“We will continue to adhere to the objectives that we set out when this alliance was made. And the PAGD leadership should be assured that we will extend support on all issues which fall within the ambit of stated objectives,” Lone added.
Reacting to the development, Altaf Thakur, BJP spokesperson, termed the Gupkar alliance a “party of opportunists”. “Those who formed the gang, sought and got votes with a promise that they will get back Article 370 but, they later realised that this was impossible. The reality is that 370 has gone 370 meters down the earth...Now those who have understood this reality have started leaving the gang one by one...,” Thakur said.