Lok Sabha polls: ‘NC, Congress will jointly contest from 5 J&K constituencies’, says Omar Abdullah

An announcement would be made from Delhi, says Abdullah

Rahul Gandhi and Omar Abdullah (File) Congress leader Rahul Gandhi with J&K National Conference Vice President Omar Abdullah during Congress's Bharat Jodo Yatra in Banihal | PTI

A day after People's Democratic Party President Mehbooba Mufti said that her party would contest from all Lok Sabha seats in Kashmir, Abdullah said that the NC and Congress would jointly contest in five Lok Sabha seats in the upcoming elections. Mufti made the announcement despite National Conference Vice President Omar Abdullah's suggestion that the PDP might not compete against his party.

Omar said that NC President Dr Farooq Abdullah had been campaigning for Congress leaders in the Jammu division, "while the Congress has assured us that the party will support the NC in the Kashmir region”. "The picture will be clear within a few days as the announcement from Delhi will be made in this regard soon," he stated.

On Tuesday, he said that the PDP president has not shown any inclination to contest against the NC. He referred to the recent rally held by the INDIA bloc in Delhi, where Mufti shared a platform with NC President Farooq, reaffirming PDP's allegiance to the alliance. Omar urged the media to refrain from sowing discord between the two parties.

However, a day later, Mufti told reporters that her party would announce the candidates within a few days. Seemingly upset with Omar’s statement, she said the NC hadn’t left any door open for them. “According to Omar, PDP doesn't exist anywhere. Whatever Omar has said could have been conveyed to us earlier,’’ she said. “But, the way Omar spoke about PDP has hurt my workers, and they aren’t in favour of supporting NC at this juncture.”

Mufti said that consultations are ongoing, and the names of the candidates for seats in Kashmir will be announced soon. The decision about the two Lok Sabha seats in the Jammu division is pending.

The PDP’s announcement to contest all seats in Kashmir, including the Anantnag-Rajouri constituency, comes after the Democratic Azad Party led by Ghulam Nabi Azad declared his candidature for Anantnag-Rajouri. Azad founded the DAP in September 2022, after leaving the Congress party.

The entry of the PDP into the fray has intensified the contest in Kashmir, particularly in the Anantnag-Rajouri constituency challenging NC. South Kashmir, comprising Anantnag, Shopian, Pulwama, and Kulgam, is PDP’s stronghold.

The PDP also holds goodwill among the tribes of Rajouri and Poonch, especially the Gujjars.

Observers believe that a clash between the NC and the PDP in the Anantnag-Rajouri constituency, along with Azad and J&K Apni Party in the race, will benefit the BJP due to the division of votes. The BJP is largely relying on the Pahari community of Rajouri-Poonch, who were granted Schedule Tribe (ST) status by the BJP.

It also remains to be seen whom the PDP will nominate from the constituency. As an INDIA alliance member, the PDP requested that the NC not field any candidate from Anantnag-Rajouri. However, the NC insisted on seat-sharing only in seats won by the BJP, not INDIA alliance members, in the last Lok Sabha polls.

With both the NC and the PDP announcing plans to contest all Lok Sabha seats in Kashmir, the INDIA alliance isn't intact in Kashmir.

Join our WhatsApp Channel to get the latest news, exclusives and videos on WhatsApp