PAGD – The alliance that was!

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Fact of the matter is that the politics for mainstream parties means grabbing the power.

By: Shafqat Shafi

Cat is out of the bag. Sajad Lone’s Peoples Conference has finally decided to call it a day and has thus divorced much hyped Peoples Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD). Ahead of PC’s pulling out, some of its leaders had accused National Conference of fielding proxy candidates in District Development Council elections thus negating the basic concept of the alliance.Sajad Lone, who was reportedly instrumental in getting the mainstream parties together and was spokesperson of the PAGD, had no option but to pull out.

Though PAGD still exists on papers but fact of the matter is that the alliance has already lost its sting. DDC elections exposed the alliance which came into existence with the promise of restoring pre-August 5, 2019 status of Jammu and Kashmir. Even while finalizing the list of PAGD candidates, the differences surfaced in the alliance and Mehbooba Mufti led PDP too had expressed reservations (though not publicly) regarding the distribution of seats as NC claimed the lion’s share.

Once the elections were over, NC’s vice president, Omar Abdullah, while addressing party cadres said that NC had to make sacrifices (for larger cause) by leaving DDC seats for other alliance parties. Omar’s tune and body language indicated that he viewed his alliance partners as some unwanted baggage.

PAGD was and is an unnatural combo. Fact of the matter is that all these parties, post August 5, were clueless about their future strategy and thus floated an alliance that was doomed to fail. Reason being, all the parties in PAGD had been doing politics at the cost of each other. Before August 5, these parties were bitter rivals. While Mehbooba Mufti may today criticize the present dispensation for moving against Farooq Abdullah in Cricket Scam case, when in power, she too wanted to do the same.

Thus there was something fundamentally wrong with this alliance. If NC concedes space to PDP, it would be doing the same at the cost of its own existence and vice versa. If any party in the alliance tries to gain an inch, some other alliance partner would be losing that inch.

As mentioned in an earlier write-up, the very existence of PAGD was unnatural. PDP founder and former Chief Minister, Mufti Muhammad Sayeed launched his political carrier as a young staunch opponent of NC’s Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah. So did Abdul Gani Lone of Peoples Conference. Though CPI(M) was friendly towards Abdullah’s Naya Kashmir (a socialist slogan), post 1975, the communists too distanced from him.

The parties knew it and still floated the alliance. Reason being they wanted to gain their lost relevance. They made tall claims of fighting for restoration of statehood, Article 370 and 35 A knowing DDC election had nothing to do with these bigger issues. These elections were merely for administrative and development purposes but the alliance partners tried to play politics over these elections.

August 05, 2019, government of India scrapped Article 370 and 35 A of Indian constitution that guaranteed special status to the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir and provided certain guarantees to the State Subjects regarding possession of land. The GoI didn’t stop there. It divided the State into two Union Territories – Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh, J&K with Assembly and Ladakh without Assembly.

Since then the mainstream parties have been talking about restoration of whatever has been taken. However, the raised the slogan at a wrong time as DDC elections were no platform for such slogans. It is pertinent to mention here that following their release, Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti are on record to have said that they will not be part of any electoral politics unless Statehood is restored and August 05, 2019 decisions reversed. However, once the DDC elections were announced, both, making PAGD as an excuse, jumped into the fray.

Sajad Lone’s pulling out is understandable. In these kind of groupings, the smaller parties are the biggest losers and that is what PC faced during DDC elections. It goes without saying that in last Lok Sabha elections, PC emerged is the second largest party, as far as vote share is concerned, in north Kashmir. By that standard, it should have been allotted more DDC seats but was not and thus it pulled out from the alliance.

Fact of the matter is that the politics for mainstream parties means grabbing the power. Following the dismissal of Assembly and then re-organisation of Jammu and Kashmir, these politicians have been left powerless. To, once again, get some access to the chair, these political parties would do anything and creation of PAGD was one such attempt. However, it has failed to click.

Unnatural alliances end naturally. That is what the fate of PAGD looks like. One, the two prominent leaders of the Alliance – Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti had, sort of, rejected electoral politics. Two, they suddenly came out and decided to be part of DDC electoral politics. Three, NC thought, it is time to bulldoze PDP and PC.

The bulldozing mission was triggered by the very thought that both PDP and PC were partners with BJP ahead of abrogation of Article 370. NC wanted to exploit the ‘guilty feeling’ of these two regional parties for joining hands with BJP. However, NC indulged into deliberate forgetfulness about its own Vice President, Omar Abdullah, being a powerful minister in BJP government at the Centre.

People here have seen these politicians in power. They have been ruling Jammu and Kashmir from 1947. Had they ever cared about welfare of erstwhile state, in 2021, Kashmir would not have been groping in darkness. Had they delivered, Kashmir’s sole link with outer world (NH44) would have not been in such a pathetic condition.

Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. It has been proven right time and again by the two major political parties – NC and PDP. Apni Party too has lots of past baggage as all its top leaders are amongst the ones who have been ruling J&K from decades.

Jammu and Kashmir needs well meaning, honest and new leadership. These politicians have been tried and tested and have failed to deliver. Jammu and Kashmir needs young blood to lead it. It needs a leadership that instead of raising unachievable slogans faces the reality and does what is good for the people of the Union Territory. People don’t need slogans, they need deliverance.

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