National Conference, Congress close to seat sharing deal


Jammu : Jammu and Kashmir’s ruling coalition partners National Conference (NC) and Congress are likely to share equally the six Lok Sabha seats in the state, party sources have indicated.

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Though seat sharing arrangements are still to be finalised, sources in both the parties said it would be 50-50. “Three seats of the Kashmir Valley are going to the National Conference, and two in Jammu and one in Ladakh going to the Congress,” a party source said, declining to be named.

Though the six Lok Sabha seats may seem insignificant numerically, they pose a tough challenge to all major political parties in the state that witnessed a successful assembly election recently with a very high voter turnout.

“The only fear that the Congress and National Conference see in this seat arrangement is that this will polarize the parties, with the NC focusing on Muslim-dominated Kashmir valley and the Congress going to Jammu region and Ladakh,” said a top Congress leader in Jammu.

The Congress has 16 members in the 87-member assembly of which only three are from Kashmir valley and the rest are from Jammu region. The National Conference has a strength of 26 in the assembly with six from Jammu region.

A Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) official said: “Our party is contesting both the Lok Sabha seats in Jammu region but we are not yet sure of the Kashmir Valley. We may go for one seat from Kashmir Valley, which will be decided in a day or two.”

The BJP for the first time won 11 assembly seats from Hindu-dominated pockets of Jammu region in the assembly elections, encashing the ire of the people over the land allotment to the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board.

The other opposition, People’s Democratic Party (PDP), has decided to go it alone in the parliamentary polls. The party won 21 seats in the assembly polls, of which only two are in Jammu region.

A senior PDP leader said: “We have still to decide on how many seats we will contest. Three Kashmir Valley seats are sure, while the senior leadership is deciding on the two Jammu and one Ladakh seats.”

PDP leaders feel they will have to work very hard in the Jammu region. The party is trying hard to show that it has a broader base in comparison to its archrival, the National Conference, which will be bound by the alliance with the Congress.

Elections to the six Lok Sabha seats will be held in the five phases, beginning April 16. The two seats of Jammu region are voting in the first two phases, while two seats of Kashmir valley in the next two phases, and the third one in the valley and one in Ladakh in the last and final phase on May 13.