By Sheikh Qayoom, Srinagar, July 21 IANS | 4 months ago

It needed the rout of the Lok Sabha polls for the National Conference and the Congress to realize they will fare better fighting the Jammu and Kashmir elections separately.

Each party -- members of an uneasy ruling coalition -- has its reasons.

The National Conference leadership in the Kashmir Valley believes that its future lies in its pro-Valley credentials which got diluted because of the alliance with the Congress.

"Aligning with any centrist party including the Congress has cost us heavily in the past and will also cost us in the future," Mustafa Kamal, a senior party leader, told IANS.

"The Congress has always been a very bad alliance partner," added Kamal, an uncle of Chief Minister Omar Abdullah.

"They (Congress) betrayed Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah, they betrayed Farooq Abdullah and they have now betrayed Omar Abdullah."

The Congress blames the National Conference for its washout in the Lok Sabha election.

"The NC has eroded our vote bank in (the Hindu majority) Jammu region by raising issues like revocation of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and hyping the debate over Article 370 (of the constitution)," said a Jammu-based Congress leader.

"These are very sensitive issues for a centrist party like ours," he added.

It needed six years of marriage for the two parties to realize that they are not really on the same political page.

But notwithstanding the bitterness, both have decided to continue to be allies in the government until Jammu and Kashmir elects a new assembly later this year.

The divorce came Sunday.

Congress leaders Ambika Soni, Ghulam Nabi Azad and Saifuddin Soz announced in Jammu there would be no pre-poll alliance with the National Conference in the assembly battle.

That prompted Omar Abdullah to say that the decision to part ways with the Congress had been taken by him and conveyed to Congress president Sonia Gandhi 10 days ago.

After the Congress and the National Conference lost all six seats in Kashmir to the BJP and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the parting of ways for the ruling alliance partners was only a matter of time.

Omar Abdullah blamed the defeat of his party candidates in all three seats in the Kashmir Valley on the Congress, saying its supporters did not vote for the National Conference candidates.

In contrast, Omar Abdullah said his party workers voted for the Congress candidates in Jammu region.

"Instead of getting translated into votes for the NC candidates, the Congress votes got transferred to the PDP," he said after the Congress had said it will field candidates for all 87 assembly seats.

Former chief minister Ghulam Nabi Azad said the alliance with the National Conference was a political compulsion and the Congress experience with the National Conference was "less than satisfactory".

The Congress is hoping to have electoral adjustments in the valley with the Peoples Democratic Front of Hakim Muhammad Yasin, the Democratic Party Nationalist of Ghulam Hassan Mir and the CPI-M.

The parting of ways with the National Conference also comes handy for the Congress if it has to forge a future alliance with the PDP.

But many are asking: Do the Congress and the National Conference have the moral right to cling on to power after bidding farewell to each other?

(Sheikh Qayoom can be contacted at sheikh.abdul@ians.in)

(Posted on 21-07-2014)

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