Srinagar: The mainstream political parties in Kashmir, after forming an electoral alliance to fight the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the upcoming District Development Council (DDC) polls, are expressing discomfort due to their alliance partner Congress, whose stand, many say, has been “wavering” consistently.
The Jammu Kashmir Pradesh Congress Committee (JKPCC), which was among the signatories of Gupkar Declaration, later named as the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD), distanced itself from the amalgam earlier this week after Union Home Minister Amit Shah took a dig at the party and the alliance, calling it a “gang”.
In a statement, Congress said it was neither part of PAGD nor had participated in any of its meetings or deliberations. “Congress Party has entered seat sharing at certain places that too at local district level,” the statement from the party read.
The Congress’ reluctance has drawn displeasure and piqued many in the regional parties, who see the former national opposition party’s posturing as “defensive” and “apologetic.”
“Today, yet again through false propaganda, BJP has put Congress on the defensive about its participation in PAGD. The pattern where BJP propagates falsehoods and sets the agenda thereby forcing Congress to toe the same line is why this country lacks a robust opposition,” former J&K chief minister Mehbooba Mufti wrote on Twitter.
The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) president also alleged that the Congress party had failed to admit publicly that the abrogation of Article 370 on August 5 last year was “illegal”.
Senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Monga, however, refuted that his party was on the “defensive” and directed his ire towards BJP.
“We (Congress) told the truth. The BJP tried its best to push us, but their attack is only meant to achieve electoral gains. We are not in PAGD and we have only entered into an electoral alliance. They (BJP) should, in fact, welcome it. Calling it a ‘gang’ speaks about their mentality or should I say, a sick mind,” Monga told NewsClick.
A day ahead of the revocation of Article 370 last year, all major political parties in the region, except BJP, met at the residence of former National Conference (NC) chief minister Farooq Abdullah on Srinagar’s Gupkar Road. The parties unanimously vowed to defend the “special status” of J&K in a statement which was referred to as “Gupkar Declaration”. All the leaders were detained within hours of the meeting and a year later, following their release all the signatories met again and reorganised as PAGD.
The declaration has since become a cornerstone in regional mainstream politics which the BJP has been attempting to “alter and crush.”
“They (BJP) is building up on authoritarianism. Congress has been a ruling party earlier and BJP is a ruling party now, so they are targeting it. Not just that, BJP is targeting every resistance. They are targeting the Left, they are targeting whatever is secular, democratic and federal,” CPI (M) leader Mohammad Yousuf Tarigami told NewsClick.
The former lawmaker, however, questioned the Congress’ role after Amit Shah’s recent allegations.
“Congress is vacillating and that is the unfortunate part. They could not withstand the pressure of BJP. They should have stood up instead,” Tarigami added.
The PAGD has until now put out lists of seat allocation for four phases of DDC elections, albeit in the fourth list the Congress candidates were given a miss. Within party ranks of regional parties, many of whom, including the NC, PDP and PC, have been the former allies of Right-wing BJP, there is a growing distrust against the Congress party. The former ruling party at the centre after all, many argue, has been “architects of the mess” in Kashmir.
“The BJP is following in the footsteps of Congress with a vengeance. They have in the past colluded and at times brazenly attempted to disempower and overthrow Kashmir’s leadership, be it Sheikh Abdullah in 1953 or his son Farooq Abdullah in 1984,” a PDP party worker said.
Ruhullah Mehdi, NC leader from central Kashmir’s Budgam district, in a series of tweets termed the Congress party as “apologetic” which has failed to deliver at crucial junctures.
“The state of Congress today is that it’s an apologetic party whose agenda is set by BJP. They want you to support them against BJP’s aggression, but will leave you alone when it actually comes. That has been the case with Muslims in general and Kashmir in particular,” Mehdi wrote.
“They do not have the courage to counter BJP’s false narrative with their own. All it takes BJP to shut any opinion down is to call it “anti-national” & Congress will leave them like cowards. They will not stand by them and explain why it is not “anti-national”,” the former minister added.