With Farooq keen to walk with Rahul Yatra, Opposition front takes shape in J&K

The Indian Express | 1 week ago | 24-11-2022 | 02:45 pm

With Farooq keen to walk with Rahul Yatra, Opposition front takes shape in J&K

The National Conference (NC) president and former Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) chief minister Farooq Abdullah is set to be among the leaders of various mainstream political parties other than the BJP in J&K, who will join the Congress’s Bharat Jodo Yatra led by Rahul Gandhi when it enters the Union Territory (UT) from neighbouring Punjab early next year.“Dr Farooq Abdullah has assured us that he will join the Yatra at Lakhanpur, which is a gateway to Jammu and Kashmir, and walk with Rahul Gandhi up to some distance,’’ said the J&K Congress’s chief spokesperson Ravinder Sharma, who was part of a delegation of the All Parties United Morcha (APUM) which called on the NC chief at his residence in Jammu on Monday.“We will be contacting senior leaders of other political parties also, including Mehbooba Mufti, to urge them to join the Bharat Jodo Yatra,” Sharma said.The APUM delegation comprising leaders from the Congress, PDP, CPI, CPM and International Democratic Party (IDP) along with some social organisations called on Abdullah to discuss the need for strengthening coordination among the Opposition parties in order to defeat “communal and divisive forces’’ in the UT.The APUM has also passed a unanimous resolution supporting the Bharat Jodo Yatra, Sharma said.The J&K Shiv Sena’s president Manish Sahni, however, said his party was yet to take a decision over the Yatra.With former MP Sheikh Abdul Rehman as its patron and IDP supremo I D Khajuria as its president, the APUM is an amalgam of nearly a dozen mainstream political parties and social organisations of J&K, which have been opposed to the BJP.The APUM’s constituent parties have been meeting among themselves to work out a consensus over a plan to check any division of non-BJP votes whenever the Assembly elections are held in the UT. The parties that attend its periodic meetings include the Shiv Sena too.The Congress had distanced itself from the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) headed by Abdullah in view of its key agenda being the campaign to seek restoration of J&K’s statehood and special status under Article 370 and Article 35A, which were abrogated by the BJP-ruled Centre in August 2019.However, the grand old party justifies its inclusion in the APUM which also mainly comprises of the PAGD constituents like the NC, PDP, CPI and CPM. Ravinder Sharma says that the APUM has been a meeting ground for all the mainstream Opposition parties and social organisations over the broader issues of restoration of J&K’s statehood, holding of early Assembly elections and putting up a joint fight against communal and divisive forces.Set up early last year by the Opposition parties, the APUM’s key avowed objective is to rally political organisations against the BJP in a bid to not let the saffron party take advantage of a split Opposition in the next Assembly polls.The APUM also does not want to be seen as “pro-Kashmir” in the predominantly Hindu inhabited areas of the Jammu division, which are seen as the BJP’s bastions.According to the APUM leaders, the body has left controversial issues like Articles 370 and 35A for its constituents to take their own respective positions on them. They pointed out that the nonagenarian leader Sheikh Abdul Rehman was a senior Jan Sangh leader and had been a confidant of Praja Parishad leader Pt Prem Nath Dogra. After Dogra’s demise, however, Rehman left the Jan Sangh amid its flaring internal politics, they said.Some leading APUM players like the Congress are pushing for having some sort of electoral understanding between themselves in order to avoid division of anti-BJP votes in J&K, especially in the BJP’s strongholds in the Jammu region.Several political observers, however, say that this strategy might not work in Jammu due to a widely-held perception that the APUM is virtually an off- shoot of the PAGD given that its key constituents are the NC and the PDP. Barring the Congress, the other members of the grouping, such as the Shiv Sena and the IDP, do not have much influence even in the Jammu region.

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Karnataka-Maharashtra border row: Key points