May 2007 News

Parties on election mode in Jammu and Kashmir

19 May 2007
The Hindu
Shujaat Bukhari

Srinagar: Though the Assembly elections are due only in September next year, political parties in Jammu and Kashmir are already in campaign mode. Except in the Congress, bickering in the parties has come to the fore in the recent past. Public meetings For over a month now the ruling Congress and the People's Democratic Party (PDP) and the main Opposition National Conference (NC) have organised public meetings. 'Elections are going to be held soon,' 'Be ready for the big battle,' 'Polls can be held anytime' these are the refrain of the leaders, including the former Chief Minister, Farooq Abdullah, and senior PDP leader Muzaffar Baig. However, Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad and his predecessor Mufti Mohammad Sayeed are silent, giving an indication that the elections may be held as scheduled. The NC and the PDP are highlighting their planks 'autonomy' and 'self-rule' respectively. 'Opportunistic politics' The People's Democratic Forum, headed by Transport Minister Hakim Yasin, has also joined the chorus. But, analysts believe that its presence is not much significant, thanks to Mr. Hakim's 'opportunistic politics' in the last few years. However, the most significant development is that Dr. Abdullah has announced his jumping on to the electoral bandwagon. He virtually retired from electoral politics in 2002, leaving the field to his son Omar Abdullah, making him party president. And Mr. Omar contested in his father's Ganderbal constituency, but lost. Sources close to the NC leadership say Dr. Abdullah's comeback will make a significant gain for the party keeping in view his charisma and long association with the masses. The PDP, notwithstanding the goodwill on the ground, is facing a serious crisis within. Two rivals Muzaffar Baig and Ghulam Hassan Mir have promoted their own lobbies, which, in the long run 'are detrimental to the party.' Mr. Baig was recalled by the party as Deputy Chief Minister last year and Mir was not re-inducted when Mr. Azad took over as Chief Minister. 'The party lacks cohesiveness in decision-making, which will prove dangerous for it in the elections,' said a party insider.


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