The National Conference (NC) - Congress coalition in Jammu and Kashmir is crumbling with leaders from the two parties accusing each other of not working for the success of alliance candidates in the recently concluded Lok Sabha elections.
The fissures came to the fore when senior Congress leader and Minister for Medical Education Taj Mohiuddin claimed that some NC workers in Uri had not voted for the party candidate Sharief-ud-Din Shariq. "National Conference vote share (in Uri) has got divided into two. 50 per cent of NC activists have voted in favour of [People's Democratic Party (PDP) candidate] Muzaffar Hussain Beigh," Mohiuddin, who represents Uri in the state assembly, said.
The Minister's claim drew sharp response from senior NC leader from Uri, Mohammad Shafi, a Rajya Sabha member, who accused Mohiuddin of trying to "cover up his failure". "He (Mohiuddin) is simply trying to cover up his failure.
Instead of blaming the NC workers, he should have explained how 12 Panchayat representatives affiliated with Congress met Beigh pledging their support in elections," Shafi alleged.
The MP also alleged that senior Congress workers in Uri worked in favour of Salam-ud-Din Bajad, candidate of People's Conference in Baramulla constituency. Around 20 Congress Sarpanches joined the issue and accused Shafi of working against his party's candidate. "His (Shafi's) son was conspicuous by his absence from a public meting addressed by none other than the Chief Minister Omar Abdullah. Many NC workers were reported to be working as polling agents of PDP," the sarpanches said in a joint statement.
The panchayat leaders admitted to meeting with the PDP candidate over tea but claimed that they said a categorical "no" to Beigh's request for support in view of the directive from Congress high command to work for alliance candidate, Shariq.
Several Congress leaders and associates have admitted that the party supporters did not vote en bloc for the National Conference candidates in the three Lok Sabha seats of the Valley.
Congress leader and Tourism Minister Ghulam Ahmad Mir admitted that the party leaders could not motivate their cadres to vote for National Conference candidate in Anantnag Lok Sabha constituency which went to polls on April 24. "We failed to mobilise our grassroots workers to vote for NC as Dooru is stronghold of Congress and has never voted for the NC," he said.
Ghulam Hassan Mir, who is minister in the state government on Congress quota, said it was very difficult for him to transfer the vote of his supporters to NC. "It was difficult for me to transfer the votes in NC's favour as during the past decade, my supporters have always stood against the National Conference. I worked really hard and made repeated pleas to the people to vote for the NC candidate but it is ultimately for them to decide," Mir said.
National Conference and Congress had a seat-sharing arrangement for the Lok Sabha polls in the state and the top leaders from both parties even campaigned together for the coalition candidates.
With Assembly elections in the state due in less than six months, some of the leaders probably left their respective supporters confused as they told them that the alliance was only for Lok Sabha elections. "We will again come to seek your votes for Hand (Congress election symbol) in assembly elections," a senior Congress leader said at an election rally in South Kashmir.
The most surprising incident of lack of ground-level coordination came to the fore in elections for Ladakh Parliamentary seat of the state. Unhappy with Congress giving mandate to Tsering Samphel to take on BJP's Thupstan Chewang, both hailing from Leh district, a senior Congress leader from Kargil, Ghulam Reza jumped into the fray as an independent candidate.
If that were not enough to hurt the chances of Samphel, Islamia School – a seminary seen leaning towards National Conference – also fielded Syed Mohammad Kazim Sabri as independent candidate, giving Bharatiya Janat Party (BJP) a bright chance of winning the Ladakh seat for the first time.