Leaving its options for an alliance with regional parties open, Congress today said it will contest the forthcoming assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir with the aim of emerging as the single largest party in the state. "We are going to fight the (assembly) elections to be not only the single largest party but to give a government of Congress party as much as possible," said AICC general secretary Ambika Soni. Soni said the Congress party gears up to fight the election to the maximum advantage of the party. "How many seats we will contest depends on what course of action our leadership (Congress President Sonia Gandhi) will decide," she said.
Soni, accompanied by senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad and JKPCC president Saifuddin Soz, held discussions with local Congress leaders including Ministers, MLAs, MLCs, party vice presidents and district presidents to get their views on the strategy that the party needs to adopt in the assembly elections scheduled to be held later this year. Following the debacle in the Lok Sabha polls where Congress and its coalition partner National Conference drew a blank in the state, pressure is mounting on the leadership of the national party to part ways with the regional party ahead of the assembly polls. Soni said she along with Azad and Soz will prepare a detailed report based on the interactions they had and submit it to the Congress President Sonia Gandhi for a final decision. The Congress general secretary said the party would strive to address the issues related to Pakistani refugees living in Jammu, the people from border areas and regularisation of the contractual employees in the state government in the next few months.
"These are burning issues which need to be addressed," she said. Soni said even though the party is extremely disappointed at losing all the three Lok Sabha seats it contested in the state, "We have learnt lessons". "We know about the polarisation process during the election campaign ... we don't want to be caught napping against any future attempts at communal polarisation. The party is united to counter any attempt at communal polarisation which we feel is harmful to the interest of state of Jammu and Kashmir," she said. Asked if the Congress-National Conference coalition government will last the full terms, Soni said "We always hope that an elected government completes its full term because the mandate of the people is for a fixed term.
"Congress has always held that the government which is elected to office should fulfill the manifesto that they gave for getting elected. This is our general commitment," she said. Azad said the state government should implement the Food Security and Land Acquisition laws passed by the parliament last year as it would immensely benefit the state. "Land holding in Jammu and Kashmir is very little as most of the state is hilly. For them it is difficult to sustain. May be the monsoon this year might not be good. When people across the country are benefitting by getting grains at cheap prices, Jammu and Kashmir should not be deprived of it," Azad said.