PDP, National Conference play out war of words

By F. Ahmed, IANS

Srinagar : Treachery, murder, gimmicks – the allegations are flying thick and fast between the opposition National Conference and the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in Jammu and Kashmir as assembly polls draw closer.

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The political acrimony between the two parties is because both are essentially Kashmir Valley-based.

The government – with the PDP and the Congress as its key partners – has announced that 70,000 youths would get jobs this year as contract/ad hoc assignments in various official departments.

But the National Conference has opposed the announcement, terming it as the ruling alliance’s attempt to woo voters ahead of polls later this year.

“Jobs already advertised by the various recruiting agencies of the government have not been filled for years and now the ruling parties are announcing thousands of jobs for local youth. This is an election gimmick which the people will not fall prey to,” said National Conference president and MP Omar Abdullah.

Abdullah also pointed out that the PDP had promised two government jobs for each Kashmiri household during the last assembly elections in 2002.

“That promise is still hanging fire and now the ruling parties are promising more jobs as elections approach in the state,” Abdullah said.

The slanging match is not restricted just to the promise of government jobs. Things took an ugly turn when the National Conference and the PDP started accusing each other of political murders.

Senior National Conference leader and former minister Sakina Itoo accused the PDP of murdering scores of her party workers.

“We lost around 30 political workers between July 2002 and September 2002. Even my father Wali Muhammad Itoo was killed in Jammu where there was no militancy in 1992.

“These murders were masterminded by our political rivals and they blamed them on militants,” Itoo said.

Responding to these accusations, PDP president Mehbooba Mufti said: “These accusations only speak of the frustration of National Conference leaders.

“They should also speak of the murders of their own leaders like Mushtaq Lone and Ghulam Hassan Bhat who died because of the party’s infighting.”

Lone, a former junior minister for home and a senior National Conference leader, was killed by unidentified gunmen on Sep 9, 2002, in north Kashmir’s Kupwara district while Bhat, another senior party leader and former junior minister for power, was killed in south Kashmir in 2003.

As the present 87-member state legislative assembly completes its six-year term in October this year, elections in Jammu and Kashmir will be due around that time.

Even though no calendar has been announced so far, the PDP and the National Conference have started holding public meetings and rallies in the Kashmir valley.

“Both the National Conference and the PDP seek their political survival by wooing the common Kashmiri. Their recent verbal war is again aimed at attracting the common man’s attention in the valley,” said Bashir Manzar, a newspaper editor here.

While Congress leaders, including the chief minister, are focusing on development and fund allocation for building better infrastructure in the state, the rivalry between the PDP and the National Conference has assumed the dimension of a street fight in which even senior leaders do not mince words while accusing each other of treachery and murder.