NC, Congress separate in Kashmir after six years in power
Srinagar: The nearly six-year-old alliance between the Congress and the regional National Conference in Jammu and Kashmir on Sunday came to an end with both parties announcing their going separate ways.
Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah. File pic
While Congress leaders Ghulam Nabi Azad, Ambika Soni and Saifuddin Soz told reporters in Jammu that their party would contest the upcoming state assembly elections without any pre-poll alliance, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah was quick to say on micro-blogging website Twitter that he had told Congress chief Sonia Gandhi 10 days ago that his party would not align with the Congress for the polls.
At present, the National Conference has 28 legislators, the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) 21, the Congress 17 and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) 11, while others including the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M), the Panthers Party and Independents have 10 members in the 87-member state assembly.
Assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir are due by the year-end. Omar Abdullah, however, said his government will complete its full term.
The Congress and the National Conference had formed the present ruling alliance in 2009 after the 2008 assembly elections. While the term of other state assemblies in India is five years, the Jammu and Kashmir assembly has a six-year term.
After the 2002 polls, the Congress and the PDP had formed an alliance government in the state headed by PDP patron Mufti Muhammad Sayeed as chief minister. Sayeed later handed over the chief minister's post to Ghulam Nabi Azad of the Congress in 2005 as per the terms of the coalition agreement.
The PDP withdrew from the alliance government after the Amarnath land row in the state in 2008. An agitation started following a land row in which it was alleged that the state government had transferred forest land to the Amarnath Shrine Board that manages the affairs of the annual Hindu pilgrimage to the Himalayan cave shrine.
The last single party government in the state was formed by the National Conference after the 1996 elections and was headed by Farooq Abdullah. Fissures in the alliance with the Congress became pronounced after this year's Lok Sabha elections. Of the six Lok Sabha seats in the state, both parties shared three each.
While the Congress lost all the three seats of Jammu, Udhampur and Ladakh to the BJP, the National Conference lost the three Kashmir Valley seats of Srinagar, Baramulla and Anantnag to the PDP. The most shattering defeats for the Congress and the National Conference, respectively, were those of Azad from Udhampur and Farooq Abdullah from Srinagar. Meanwhile, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah Sunday said his father and National Conference patron Farooq Abdullah will not contest the assembly polls due to ill health.