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Sajad Lone’s People’s Conference quits PAGD

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We are divorcing from alliance not its objectives: Lone

Srinagar: People’s Conference chairperson Sajad Lone on Tuesday announced his party’s exit from the seven-party conglomerate People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD), saying some constituents of the grouping had fielded proxy candidates in the district development council (DDC) elections recently held in Kashmir.

The People’s Conference is the first party to quit the PAGD, an alliance of seven Kashmir-centric mainstream parties, including the National Conference and the Peoples Democratic Party, formed for the restoration of Article 370. Lone, who also happens to be the spokesperson for PAGD, announced the decision in a letter to PAGD head and National Conference president Farooq Abdullah.

In his letter to PAGD’s president Farooq Abdullah, Lone has said that “there has been a breach of trust between partners which we believe is beyond remedy,” adding that  “we might have inflicted irreversible damage on to ourselves and on to the very people that we are supposed to represent. Trust between allying partners who have been rivals all along can be very elusive and extremely fragile. proxies have made it perpetually elusive.”

“I am writing to you in reference to the recently held DDC elections and a spate of statements issued by leaders belonging to our party. The recurring theme of the statements was the fielding of proxy candidates by constituent parties against the officially mandated candidates of the PAGD,” Lone says in the letter, circulated by the party to media, a copy of which lies with Kashmir Images.

Lone further said that his party had convened a meeting of its leaders on Monday to deliberate on the issue in detail. “The predominant feeling in the meeting was that the PAGD sentiment at top was not emulated on the ground. It was felt that the results of a sincere alliance should have meant that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts,” the letter reads, adding that “Instead, “the whole was not greater than the sum of parts, sadly not even equal to the sum of parts, but much lesser and equal to just one part of the many parts.”

Stating that “There has been a breach of trust between partners which we believe is beyond remedy. The majoritarian view in our party is that we should pull out of the alliance in an amicable manner rather than waiting for things to get messier,” Lone said and announced  that “we will no longer be a part of the PAGD alliance.”

Reaffirming his party’s decision to quit the alliance, Lone further wrote that “…the sad reality that emerges is that in majority of the places the party fielding the candidate on behalf of PAGD was left to fend for itself and secured the votes that his party managed. In most places other parties were silent bystanders or worst compounded the problem by fielding proxy candidates.”

The letter further quoted Lone as saying that while on the face of it, PAGD won these elections unambiguously having won the maximum number of seats, the statistics cannot be hidden and apart from the number of seats that PAGD won, other important statistical variable in the context of August 5 (Abrogation of Article 370) is the number of votes polled against the PAGD.

He said he believes the votes polled against the PAGD are mostly those cast by proxies of PAGD constituent parties against official PAGD candidates.

“And the net outcome of selectively voting for and against PAGD is a very poor vote share. This is certainly not the vote share that people of J and K deserved post August 5,” Lone said in the letter.

Pertinent to mention that PAGD was formed last year to fight for the restoration of Article 370 and Article 35A, abrogated by the ruling BJP government on 5 August 2019.

Lone, referring to the DDC elections, said that these were less of an election and more of an opportunity to send a strong unanimous political message. “…They, per se, may not matter institutionally. But these elections were distinctive by virtue of the timing. Firstly, the context of these DDC elections was politically very important. It was the first election post August 5. And secondly it was a combined show of strength of a majority of the J & K political mainstream.”

Stating that were watchful of ‘our’ actions and intentions, Lone further added that, “They are eye witnesses to our actions. They are the actors in the political theatre scripted by us. And we think that people don’t know what we were up to. People know that blinded by political greed we fielded candidates against each other and the question they are asking, if we can’t trust the PAGD leadership on something as basic as a DDC seat how can we trust them for larger issues.”

This alliance, Lone said, needed sacrifice. “Every party had to sacrifice on the ground in terms of giving space to fellow allies. No party is willing to cede space, no party is willing to sacrifice. We fought against each other in Kashmir province not against the perpetrators of August 5. And those who perpetrated August 5 and their minions are now vocally gleeful.”

Lone however maintained that his party was divorcing from the alliance but not its objectives and ensured that none of his party member shall issue any statement against the alliance.“I would however want to add that we are divorcing from the alliance not its objectives. We will continue to adhere to the objectives that we set out when this alliance was made. And the PAGD leadership should be assured that we will extend support on all issues which fall within the ambit of stated objectives,” he said, adding, “We have issued clear instructions to all party leaders not to issue any statements against PAGD alliance or its leaders.”

The PAGD, formalised only in October 2020 when all the detained leaders were released, got 112 seats of 280 seats in the maiden district elections in the union territory. Of the 112, the People’s Conference won eight.

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