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Lok Sabha Elections 2024: Kashmiri parties dump INDI bloc for power; PDP Vs NC in Valley

The People's Democratic Party (PDP) chief Mehbooba Mufti is set to contest against former Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad in the Lok Sabha polls from the Anantnag-Rajouri constituency, sparking a triangular contest with Farooq Abdullah's National Conference (NC).

Lok Sabha Elections 2024: Kashmiri parties dump INDI bloc for power; PDP Vs NC in Valley
First Published Apr 8, 2024, 12:30 PM IST

In yet another jolt to the INDI alliance ahead of the2024 Lok Sabha elections, Mehbooba Mufti, the chief of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), will contest against former Congress stalwart Ghulam Nabi Azad in the upcoming Lok Sabha polls from the Anantnag-Rajouri constituency. This announcement sets the stage for a compelling triangular contest between the two former Chief Ministers of Jammu and Kashmir and Farooq Abdullah’s National Conference (NC) in the newly delineated south Kashmir seat.

The decision came to light on Sunday when Mehbooba's party unveiled her as the candidate, along with nominees for the other two Valley constituencies, Srinagar-Pulwama and Baramulla.

Azad, who departed from the Congress nearly two years ago to establish his Democratic Progressive Azad Party (DPAP), had earlier declared his candidacy from Anantnag-Rajouri. Notably, he had previously lost as a Congress candidate from Jammu’s Udhampur to Union Minister and senior BJP leader Jitendra Singh in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

Sartaj Madni, the chief of PDP’s parliamentary board, disclosed the candidates in the presence of Mehbooba, the party president. Meanwhile, PDP youth wing president Waheed Parra is set to contest from Srinagar, and former Rajya Sabha member Mir Fayaz will represent Baramulla.

NC has put forward influential Gujjar leader Mian Altaf Ahmad as its candidate from Anantnag-Rajouri, while the Apni Party has named Zaffar Iqbal Manhas. On the other hand, the BJP has yet to unveil its candidate.

This development indicates that Farooq’s NC and Mehbooba’s PDP, both part of the opposition INDIA bloc, will be directly competing against each other in all Valley seats, leaving the two seats of the Jammu division to the alliance pivot Congress.

Mehbooba affirmed her support to Congress in Udhampur and Jammu, emphasizing that her support was not contingent on reciprocity. She urged Congress and NC workers to rally behind her to amplify the voice of Jammu and Kashmir people in Parliament.

NC had earlier declared its candidate, Altaf Ahmad, for Anantnag-Rajouri, sparking tensions with PDP. Despite being part of the same alliance, PDP and NC are also partners of the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD), formed in Aug 2019 post the abrogation of J&K’s special status under Article 370. However, the alliance encountered strains later on.

Regarding the allies competing against each other, Mehbooba expressed disappointment at NC's decision, emphasizing the importance of consultation.

In Anantnag-Rajouri, Azad and Altaf will vie for the support of Gujjar and Pahari voters, while Mehbooba remains a significant figure in the Anantnag-Shopian belt. The constituency, with close to 19 lakh voters, witnesses a notable Gujjar population, particularly in the Valley segment.

In north Kashmir Baramulla, PDP’s Fayaz will face off against People’s Conference chairman and Valley veteran Sajad Lone, with NC, BJP, and other parties yet to reveal their candidates for this seat.

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