A coalition of pro autonomy political parties – fighting for restoration of the special status within the Indian union – suffered a setback on Tuesday after a key constituent cited ‘breach of trust’ by other partners and quit the alliance.
People’s Conference chairperson Sajad Lone announced his party’s exit from the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration, saying some constituents of the seven-member grouping had fielded proxy candidates in the recent district development council elections. “People know that blinded by political greed we fielded candidates against each other,” Lone said in a strongly worded letter to PAGD head and National Conference president Farooq Abdullah.
The People’s Conference is the first party to quit the PAGD, an alliance of seven Kashmir-centric pro-autonomy parties, including the National Conference and the Peoples Democratic Party, formed for the restoration of Article 370.
“On the face of it, PAGD won these elections unambiguously having won the maximum number of seats. We can’t hide statistics and apart from the number of seats that PAGD won, other important statistical variable in the context of August 5 (Abrogation of Article 370) is the number of votes polled against the PAGD,” Lone said in the letter released to the media here. He said he believes the votes polled against the PAGD are mostly those cast by proxies of PAGD constituent parties against official PAGD candidates.
“And the net outcome of selectively voting for and against PAGD is a very poor vote share. This is certainly not the vote share that people of J and K deserved post August 5,” Lone said in the letter. The PAGD got 112 seats of 280 seats in the maiden district elections in the union territory. Of the 112, the People’s Conference won eight.
While the PAGD was looking at the statistics, Lone said, the people on ground were looking at the actions and intentions of the political players. “They are eyewitnesses to our actions. They are the actors in the political theatre scripted by us. And we think that people don’t know what we were up to. People know that blinded by political greed we fielded candidates against each other”. He said, “the question they are asking, ‘if we can’t trust the PAGD leadership on something as basic as a DDC seat how can we trust them for larger issues’,” he added. According to Lone, the PAGD constituents “might have inflicted irreversible damage” on themselves and the people they are supposed to represent.
“We fought against each other in Kashmir province not against the perpetrators of August 5. And those who perpetrated August 5 and their minions are now vocally gleeful,” Lone said referring to the BJP and its allies. The People’s Conference chairperson, who left the separatist camp in 2009 to join the mainstream, said it is difficult to stay on and pretend as if nothing has happened. “There has been a breach of trust between partners which we believe is beyond remedy. The majoritarian view in our party is we should pull out of the alliance in an amicable manner rather than waiting for things to get messier. And I am confirming that we will no longer be a part of the PAGD alliance,” he said. Lone added that his party was divorcing from the alliance not its objectives. He also assured the PAGD leadership that it would extend support on all issues which fall within the ambit of stated objectives.
Opposition leaders had met on August 4, 2019, hours before the Indian government revoked the special status of Kashmir under Article 370 and bifurcated into two union territories. However, the PAGD was formalised only in October 2020 when all the detained leaders were released.