The Congress and National Conference (NC) on Wednesday sealed a partial pre-poll alliance for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections wherein the two parties kept three of the six Lok Sabha seats in Jammu-Kashmir for a “friendly contest” between them.
Both parties will contest the Jammu, Udhampur and Srinagar seats in alliance, while there will be “friendly contest” for Anantnag, Baramulla and Ladakh seats.
The NC has left both seats of Jammu division – Jammu and Udhampur – for the Congress.
NC chief, Farooq Abdullah, will re-contest from the Srinagar Lok Sabha seat and the Congress will not field any candidate against him.
The two parties reached the alliance only after Congress leaders Ghulam Nabi Azad and Ambika Soni dashed to Srinagar early this morning from New Delhi to hold deliberations with Abdullah.
The NC had earlier announced candidature of BR Kundal, a former chief secretary of the state, who recently deserted the Congress and joined the NC.
The two parties failed to reach any understanding for the Anantnag seat in South Kashmir where the PCC chief GA Mir was seeking the Congress ticket.
The NC had spared the seat for Mir during the by-polls but the election did not take place due to security reasons. Farooq Abdullah had won the Srinagar seat during the by-election.
The announcement about the alliance was made jointly by Farooq Abdullah, Ghulam Nabi Azad and Ambika Soni after a closed door meeting at Abdullah’s residence.
Azad said that the alliance has been reached in the national interest, to strengthen secular forces in Jammu and Kashmir as the state faces threat from Pakistan.
Abdullah said the Congress will contest from Jammu and Udhampur Lok Sabha seats.
“I will contest from Srinagar and there will be a friendly contest between National Conference and Congress in Anantnag and Baramulla parliamentary constituencies. We are also discussing the Ladakh seat,” said Farooq Abdullah.
Azad said that friendly contest means that there will be no cut-throat contest between the parties on Anantnag and Baramulla seats.
“Live and let live. This is the best decision taken in national interest. If either the Congress or National Conference wins, it is a win-win situation for both,” he said.
Azad said the Congress-NC alliance will ensure there is no division of secular votes and the BJP doesn’t get to benefit. He added that all Congress leaders will also campaign for Abdullah, who will be contesting from the Srinagar Parliamentary seat.
The NC has already announced Mohammad Akbar Lone, a former Speaker, as the party’s candidate for the Baramulla seat.
Earlier, there were speculations that the pre-poll alliance between NC and Congress had hit a dead-end after former announced its candidate for the Anantnag Parliamentary constituency. Anantnag Lok Sabha seat has been a bone of contention between the NC and Congress.
Omar Abdullah, National Conference vice-president, had set a precondition to contest on all three seats in Kashmir for any alliance to take place.
In exchange, NC was willing to support Congress in the two seats in Jammu and one in Ladakh. However, Congress had insisted on contesting from four seats – two from the Jammu region and one each from Ladakh and Anantnag.
On Tuesday, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chief and former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti dismissed reports of an alliance with the Congress stating that the party is preparing to contest all the six Lok Sabha seats in Jammu and Kashmir. Mehbooba Mufti is expected to finalise the party’s candidates for the Lok Sabha seats within a day or two.