National Conference Admits:This Assembly Election Toughest Battle

24 November 2014
Greater Kashmir
Muddasir Ali

Srinagar: The ruling National Conference Monday said the state Assembly election scheduled to start from Tuesday is 'the toughest electoral battle' the party would be facing. The party also said that retaining Srinagar is a 'challenge' for it. 'No doubt, this is the toughest election. But we have fought such elections in the past as well,' said National Conference's General Secretary, Ali Muhammad Sagar, after filing his nomination papers from Khanyar constituency here. Sagar is fighting to enter the Assembly for the fourth straight time. He is locked in a direct contest with PDP's Khursheed Alam. Facing charges of mis-governance and corruption during its six years rule in J&K-in coalition with Congress-the National Conference's woes have only increased with a number of its prominent workers and leaders changing political loyalties in the recent past. Sagar said absence of party's 'star campaigner' and President Farooq Abdullah during the ongoing campaigning 'has made the elections even tougher.' National Conference represents 28 Assembly constituencies in J&K in the 87-member State legislature. In the parliamentary polls held in May this year, the party could win just five assembly segments whereas its arch-rival, opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), bagged 41 segments in the State. The PDP, and a resurgent BJP under the leadership of Prime Minister NarendraModi, has been claiming that they would each win majority in the state elections. The National Conference has seen decline in both its vote share and assembly seats from 57 in 1996 to the lowest 28 in 2008 elections. Observers have predicted that National Conference could fall to the lowest seats share in the upcoming assembly elections. 'The elections are always toughwe are ready to face this toughest election which is being contested by different parties,' said Sagar. 'National Conference is a prime political organization and it will get majority in the elections.' To a question whether National Conference would retain all the eight Assembly seats of Srinagar, Sagar said, 'It is a challenge. (Elections in) Srinagar will also be tough because Srinagar was worst affected in the floods. But we hope people will appreciate the work we did despite all the difficulties the government faced.' The National Conference made a clean sweep in Srinagar in the 2008 polls and the win helped the party to form the government in coalition with the Congress. However retaining all the Assembly segments could be a herculean task for the party this time as it is facing an upbeat PDP. Sagar said the emergence of new parties in Kashmir during elections times is 'handiwork of different agencies'. 'This is nothing new,' he said. The senior National Conference Minister said the BJP has been 'using RSS cadre and religious clerics from outside to campaign for the party in Kashmir.' 'It is very dangerous. The BJP wants to abolish our identity, the Article 370, and the State's own constitution. We are hopeful that people understand their design,' said Sagar.